According to two organizations involved in the effort, more than 100 US citizens and green card holders, as well as nine special immigrant visa holders, were evacuated from Afghanistan on Tuesday via a private charter flight.
According to a press release from Project Dynamo and Human First Coalition, the evacuees were “moved overland, COVID tested, MMR vaccinated, securely housed, and evacuated to safety the afternoon of September 28, 2021 at 2:00 P.M. local time.”
According to the groups, among the passengers evacuated from Kabul were 59 children under the age of 18 and 16 children under the age of three.
“We would like to thank the United States State Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates for their cooperation in difficult circumstances to ensure the safe return of these US citizens, US LPRs, and Afghan allies,” the press release said. “We would also like to thank the Taliban for facilitating the aircraft’s departure by allowing those who want to leave Afghanistan to do so peacefully.”
Bryan Stern, co-founder of Project Dynamo, stated on Wednesday that they had landed in the UAE but that their subsequent flight to the United States had been denied landing rights. He claimed they were “stuck” in Abu Dhabi’s capital and had been “trying to get out.”
This is security protocol, according to an administration official. Once the plane touched down in the UAE, US officials had to double-check the manifest and the passengers’ travel documents. According to the official, the system is functioning properly, and as passengers are verified, they expect them to be rebooked on commercial flights and be able to fly to the United States.
On Wednesday, a State Department spokesman confirmed that “a privately organized charter flight arrived in Abu Dhabi overnight from Kabul.”
“Our embassy staff in the UAE has been working around the clock to verify the accuracy of the passenger manifest and is coordinating with DHS/Customs and Border Protection on the ground to ensure the passengers are screened and vetted before flying to the United States,” they said.
“We expect the passengers to continue onward travel tomorrow morning,” said the spokesperson, adding, “We are grateful to the UAE government for its support.”
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told reporters that “all US-bound flights must follow the established safety, security, and health protocols before they are cleared for departure.”
“This process necessitates the verification of flight manifests prior to departure to the United States to ensure that all passengers are appropriately screened,” they explained.
On Monday, a senior State Department official stated that the US was attempting to facilitate the departure of approximately 100 American citizens and green card holders who had indicated a desire to leave Afghanistan.
According to the official, they are “constantly touching base” with US citizens believed to be still in Afghanistan, as well as other governments, private groups, and aircraft carriers, in order to arrange charter flights. According to that official, there were “challenges” with the charter flights that arrived at US government reception points, such as stowaways, unaccompanied minors, and passengers who were not on the manifests.
According to the official, the biggest impediment to the departure of US citizens and others from Afghanistan is the Taliban’s “unpredictability regarding who is permitted to depart.” Another significant constraint, according to the official, is the lack of regular commercial air service.
“A variety of contact and dialogue is ongoing with the Taliban, particularly with the remaining members of the Taliban political commission who are based in Doha,” the official said. During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated that a group of 21 US citizens and their family members were able to leave Afghanistan that day, but he declined to provide further details.
Austin refused to say how many Americans are still in Afghanistan, saying the figure “fluctuates daily.”
“This has been a dynamic process,” he added, “but we will remain focused on this.”
The State Department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson, Jalina Porter, told reporters Tuesday that the department was unable to confirm the additional departures due to “security concerns,” and referred them to the Department of Defense.