Can Americans stranded in the new caliphate get their COVID stimulus checks in the form of airfare vouchers to escape murder by the Taliban?
This sounds like State is shaking people down at Kabul airport for bribes in order to get them onto flights. Not so.
But given the magnitude of the maladministration we’re witnessing, maybe that’s coming next.
Even though U.S. officials tell NatSec Daily and others that evacuation flights from Kabul will be free, people trying to catch a plane in the Afghan capital say differently. One person said State Department staff were seeking large payments — up to $2,000 — from American passengers and even more from non-U.S. citizens.
When we relayed what this person told us to the State Department, a spokesperson didn’t deny that this is happening.
“U.S. law requires that evacuation assistance to private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.’ The situation is extremely fluid, and we are working to overcome obstacles as they arise,” the spokesperson said.
So you need to fork over two grand at the airport just to get on the plane? Where are people in Afghanistan supposed to get that money?
Where does the $2,000 figure come from? Jerry Dunleavy posted this earlier:
I understand that policy in the abstract. If you’re living abroad and an earthquake strikes or there’s domestic political unrest, and the feds come to rescue you, it’s not unreasonable to ask you to bear a small part of the cost of your salvation.
But what if the feds themselves are the cause of your emergency? What if they could have and should have warned you weeks ago that Afghanistan was destined to fall and that you should head for the airport immediately, but instead the president himself fed you nonsense about how the Afghan army might hold out indefinitely?
And then you woke up one day in early August and looked out your window in Kabul and the Taliban was riding into town?
Why should you have to pay the federal government to extricate yourself from a crisis that they should have foreseen, failed to anticipate, and now have grossly mismanaged?
The latest evidence of mismanagement comes this from the Wall Street Journal this afternoon, revealing a communique from U.S. diplomats that was sent to Washington on July 13. That was just five days after Biden told the country at his now infamous press conference that Afghanistan might not fall:
About two dozen State Department officials serving at the embassy in Kabul sent an internal memo to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and another top State Department official last month warning of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline, according to a U.S. official and a person familiar with the cable.
The cable, sent via the State Department’s confidential dissent channel, warned of rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and the subsequent collapse of Afghan security forces, and offered recommendations on ways to mitigate the crisis and speed up an evacuation, the two people said…
The signatories of the dissent channel cable urged the State Department to begin registering and collecting personal data in advance for all Afghans who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas, aimed at those who worked as translators or interpreters; locally employed embassy staff; and for those eligible for other U.S. refugee programs while there was still six weeks left before the withdrawal deadline.
It also urged the administration to begin evacuation flights no later than Aug. 1, the people said.
Imagine owing two thousand bucks to have your life saved after the White House and State sat on that information for weeks. Knowing that State still got it wrong by predicting the country would hold through the end of the U.S. withdrawal.
I’ll leave you with the euphemism of the day from the State Department.
The State Department's message to Americans stranded behind Taliban lines in Kabul: "We're aware of congestion around the airport."
Yes, "congestion" is the word they went with. pic.twitter.com/2wt3pdzhtk
— Spencer Brown (@itsSpencerBrown) August 19, 2021
Update: At least they’ve done one thing right this week.
— Alex Ward (@alexbward) August 19, 2021