US President Joe Biden will deliver an address to the nation for the second time this week on Friday, as the evacuation of Americans and allies from Afghanistan appears to be slowing, and concerns that Afghan refugees are being forgotten after Kabul was taken by the Taliban on Sunday, rise.
Mr Biden, who said this week “chaos” was unavoidable with his country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, is expected to address concerns about the evacuation of Americans, allies and Afghan refugees, amid reports that it is falling behind.
It remains unclear exactly how many are awaiting airlifts from the country before an agreed deadline of 31 August, after Afghanistan fell into the hands of the Taliban last weekend. So far, fewer than 7,000 individuals have been flown from Kabul, despite a stated capacity of 5,000 – 9,000 a day.
As tens of thousands remain in Afghanistan, the Biden administration was forced into a reversal on fees of $2,000 (£1,469) per evacuee on Thursday, amid reports those fleeing the Taliban were being forced to reimburse the US.
US reverses on $2,000 evacuation fee
The Biden administration was forced into a reversal on charging $2,000 for those evacuating Afghanistan on Thursday, amid outrage that those fleeing the Taliban would be incur costs.
A spokesperson for the State Department refused to deny that it was charging the fee, when challenged by a Politico reporter. The figure also appeared on the department’s website, before it was allegedly taken down.
Hours after reports emerged, a spokesperson told The New York Post that “In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan,”
That came as tends of thousands remain in the country, which fell to the Taliban with weeks of the US withdrawing. Many Afghans are thought to be unable to reach the airport.
Gino Spocchia20 August 2021 13:13
6,000 cleared for evacuation on Thursday
With a deadline of 31 August looming, tens of thousands remain to be airlifted from Afghanistan — a figure thought to include Americans and Afghans who worked with the US, as well as their families — who were unable to leave the country before it fell to Taliban militants.
Among the biggest issue facing Afghans fleeing the country since it fell on Sunday, are the Taliban fighters and their checkpoints which ring the airport in Kabul. Hundreds have camped outside the airport in scenes that have exacerbated fears that many are unable to reach US military assistance, and safety.
Hundreds of Afghans are also believed to lack even the papers to get through Taliban checkpoints, or fear retribution if they are unable to flee. According to The Associated Press, some of the Taliban were unable to read the US-issued paperwork, slowing down evacuations further.
On Thursday, 6,000 people were cleared by US officials for evacuation, and were expected to board military flights in the coming hours. That is an increase of about 4,000 on recent days, when aircraft have left well below capacity, of 9,000 a day.
Gino Spocchia20 August 2021 12:58
Hello and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the Biden administration and the evacuation of Americans and allies from Afghanistan.
Gino Spocchia20 August 2021 12:39