Evacuation flights for Americans and Afghans in Kabul are not guaranteed to be free as the country plunges into economic chaos in the wake of the Taliban takeover


Indian evacuation kabul airport
Indian national sit aboard an Indian military aircraft conducting an evacuation at Kabul airport on August 17, 2021. STR/AFP via Getty Images
  • Evacuation flights for Americans and Afghans out of Kabul are not guaranteed to be free.

  • According to US law, repatriation flights are not free and the US government could seek reimbursement for evacuating people in Kabul.

  • “The situation is extremely fluid, and we are working to overcome obstacles as they arise,” a State Department spokesperson said.

  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Evacuation flights for Americans and Afghans in Kabul are not guaranteed to be free, and people could pay as much as $2,000 or more for a flight out of the country.

People are desperately fleeing Afghanistan after Taliban forces regained control of Kabul, reinstating their rule after more than two decades.

Thousands of US troops have been working to evacuate US citizens and Afghans at the Hamid Karzai International Airport earlier this week, according to Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby. But those looking to leave the nation could face a large bill upon arriving in the US.

In a security alert posted on August 14, the day before Kabul fell to Taliban forces, the Overseas Security Advisory Council said, “Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their US passports until the loan is repaid.”

“The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person,” the bulletin post continued.

The US government could request reimbursement payments for evacuation flights out of Afghanistan, as “US law requires that departure assistance to private US citizens or third-country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.'”

“By taking a US government coordinated transport, evacuees are obligated to repay the cost of their transportation,” according to the State Department website.

A State Department spokesperson told Politico that the situation in Afghanistan remains “extremely fluid, and we are working to overcome obstacles as they arise.”

According to a FAQ on the State Department website on what it is capable of doing during emergency situations, the department said it does “understand that you may not be able to access your own money during a crisis” and that “emergency financial assistance in the form of a loan may be available.”

“For evacuation transportation that we arrange to transport you out of a crisis location, you do not have to pay before you board,” citing the FAQ response.

“To board these transports, you will need to complete and sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government,” the response continued. “The amount billed to evacuees is based on the cost of a full fare economy flight, or comparable alternate transportation, to the designated destination(s) that would have been charged immediately prior to the events giving rise to the evacuation.”

On Monday, President Joe Biden signed off on allocating $500 million to aid the evacuation effort of Afghans looking to flee the country after Taliban forces took over Kabul.

In a memorandum to the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken Monday evening, Biden authorized that the money, taken from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund, be used “for the purpose of meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas.”

But repaying evacuation flights are easier said than done. In Kabul, Afghans wait in long lines outside of banks to withdraw their savings amid economic chaos in the country’s transition between authoritative powers.

“There will be a restructuring of the economy, with the currency depreciating, inflation rising, and real incomes declining,” acting central bank governor Ajmal Ahmady, who recently fled Afghanistan, told The Washington Post. “It’s going to cause a significant economic impact.”

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