For those waiting to hear about evacuation flights for people left behind in Afghanistan, your patience will have to be tested. The State Department has indicated that evacuation flights out of Afghanistan will not resume until the end of the year. This is according to a senior State Department official who spoke with The Wall Street Journal.
The official from the State Department also told the Wall Street Journal that any operations to return U.S. citizens, as well as Afghan allies left behind, will require extensive coordination with the Taliban as well as other governments.
The international airport in Kabul has been closed to regular passenger travel ever since the United States ended its first evacuation attempt on August 31st.
When these evacuations finally resume, U.S. citizens, U.S. legal permanent residents, and immediate family members will receive priority treatment. They will have first dibs in securing seats on evacuation flights, the official said. It is the hope of the State Department to eventually have a number of aircraft leave the country each week at the end of the year.
After citizens, permanent residents, and their families, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants will be eligible for American evacuation flights. Those in this category will have to complete most of the SIV vetting processes, according to the official. Then, those Afghans who are at a continual risk will receive a focus. This category includes female judges or government workers. At this point, these people do not qualify under the department’s current plan.
There is, at this point, no date set to resume these flights by the State Department. And there are no details worked out with neighboring countries, including the kind of documentation that will be necessary.
Another senior official at the State Department said that when they get the right combination of documentation and logistics, they will get going again.
Right now, there is concern about stowaways and fraudulent documentation which is complicating the process. The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States does not have the ability to deport Afghans without documentation. And Qatar Airlines will not allow passengers to board their planes without the right travel documentation.
There have only been a few flights that have left Afghanistan with evacuees since August. This has caused many to attempt to flee the country by crossing land borders.
One State Department official reported that the United States has been attempting to increase the number of charter flights. They have successfully evacuated over 200 people since Aug. 31.
“Our goal is to accelerate the pace of these ongoing charter flights, and we are working closely with our partners to do that,” the official said.
The official confessed that until the airport is reopened, charter flights were all they could accomplish. This is due to the fact that regular airlines will find it next to impossible to pay the insurance premiums that are required to fly into Afghanistan.
Some are now focusing on what is being called an Afghan parole program. This program will require fewer bureaucratic resources and would substantially reduce the current incentives for unsafe, illegal, and irregular migration out of Afghanistan.
This program would also allow qualified Afghans to receive some form of preliminary U.S. travel authorization before crossing a border. These individuals would still be subject to additional security and health screenings in third countries, but parole would make existing private charter evacuation efforts significantly easier, safer, and more likely to move forward in a legal fashion.
There are a number of nongovernment evacuation coalitions that have been advocating for this approach for months.