This reads as a mix-up in bureaucratic red tape with some government incompetence sprinkled in. A charter plane carrying more than 100 Americans and U.S. green card holders evacuated from Afghanistan was denied U.S. landing rights by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The organizers of the flight, a non-profit called Project Dynamo, reported to Reuters that DHS “will not allow a charter on an international flight into a U.S. port of entry.” Bryan Stern, a founder of the group, said the denial came from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a department in DHS. The group is one that has risen to the challenge of assisting Americans and Afghan helpers stranded in Afghanistan. The Biden administration is not doing the job so groups of U.S. military veterans, current and former U.S. officials, and others are doing the work. In this case, DHS claims to not have knowledge of the situation.
Stern spoke to Reuters from aboard a plane his group chartered from Kam Air, a private Afghan airline, that he said had been sitting for 14 hours at Abu Dhabi airport after arriving from Kabul with 117 people, including 59 children.
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were unfamiliar with the matter, but that the U.S. government typically takes time to verify the manifests of charter planes before clearing them to land in the United States.
We can understand verifying those who are on the plane. In fact, we encourage knowing who exactly is entering the U.S. In this case, though, this group is comprised of American citizens and U.S. green card holders, as well as six Afghans who hold U.S. Special Immigration Visas. Their verification process should already be complete. This is a case of refusing to allow American citizens back into the country. The plan was to put the evacuees on a chartered Ethiopian Airlines plane when it arrived in Abu Dhabi from Kabul. Customs cleared the plane to land at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Then customs changed the clearance to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. And, finally, the plane was denied landing rights anywhere in the U.S. Stern said, “I have a big, beautiful, giant, humongous Boeing 787 that I can see parked in front of us. I have crew. I have food.” Stern’s group had jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops, or so they thought. They were ready to go. Instead, the group of passengers was retrieved by intermediaries in Kabul after permission was obtained from the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority, now run by the Taliban. They were returned to Kabul. The evacuees are back where they started from and we can only imagine their fear and frustration about their situation.
Imagine sitting on a tarmac in the UAE for 14 hours after flying in from Kabul with 116 other people, including 59 children. This should have not been a red-tape snafu. DHS is using the excuse that background checks may have to be made and that takes time. True but, again, these are Americans with American passports or green cards or special visas issued after background checks. What’s the hold-up for these adults, as I assume the 59 children are not considered security risks? Stern explained that all of the passengers were tested for COVID-19, all were negative, and they had received MMR vaccinations.
‘Today’s triumph is ending in tragedy. After initial approval, the US government is now denying entry into the US for our American passengers aboard Dynamo 01’, he wrote on Instagram.
‘These passengers are all US passport holders, US green card holders with valid Afghan passports, and a few SIV approved Afghan passport holders.
‘There are 59 children under the age of 18 and 16 under the age of 3. ALL of these passengers have been Covid tested, are Covid negative, and have been MR vaccinated.
‘These Americans are being denied entry into THEIR OWN COUNTRY by the US government.’
It’s been reported that most of the evacuees from Afghanistan are landing at Dulles outside of D.C. The part of the story about the plane being told to land at Dulles instead of JFK doesn’t sound odd. It’s what happened after that – no admittance to any port of entry, anywhere in the U.S. Stern also said that the State Department and the United Arab Emirate’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had cooperated in the evacuation effort. As usual, the Biden administration won’t go on the record about this situation. The reporting quotes “sources”.
But an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were unfamiliar with the matter, but that the US government typically takes time to verify the manifests of charter planes before clearing them to land in the United States.
A State Department official told CNN they would not ‘detail out involvement with any specific groups at this time’ and described the evocation effort as a ‘monumental task’.
‘The US government understands the need to coordinate across agencies, as we have done, but we also appreciate the desire of NGOs and private citizens to assist and have identified a greater need for coordination there,’ the official said.
‘The State Department has established a team to coordinate across government agencies and with advocacy groups, nonprofits, and other partners to facilitate freedom of movement for those who wish to leave Afghanistan, including US citizens, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans to whom we have a commitment to assist.’
The Americans and Afghan helpers trying to evacuate from Kabul are at the mercy of the Taliban. They are in control of the country and must be obeyed. Most of the political talk for evacuations is being done in Doha. All of this could have been avoided if Biden had not gone rogue on the advice given to him by military and intel advisers. If he had properly evacuated Americans and Afghan helpers far enough ahead of time, they would not be in this horrible predicament. And civilian organizations would not have to step in and do the American government’s job.