Hundreds of Afghans, as well as U.S. citizens, were forced to leave safe houses in Afghanistan after a volunteer group said they were unable to successfully arrange for a way out of Afghanistan with the U.S. government.
Group leaders said that they had access to three flights that were ready to leave, however, the U.S. government had not approved passenger manifests or clear departure, so even though there were planes ready to evacuate people, no locations had been cleared for them to land.
Task Force Argo, a volunteer group of current and former U.S. government officials, veterans, and other individuals chartering evacuation flights out of Afghanistan, also said the safe houses they had run were out of money to support them.
The task force was able to raise almost $2 million in donations to aid with the evacuation from Afghanistan, however, none of this money had come from the U.S. government.
The Task Force has allegedly been waiting weeks for a response from The State Department regarding landing arrangements and financial support. Another volunteer group helping to charter flights out of Afghanistan has not yet received approval regarding its passenger manifests either.
“It’s astronomical,” said the spokeswoman, who also maintains a position with the U.S. government. “We are just volunteers.”
Task Force Argo reportedly said they had helped evacuate more than 2,000 people from Afghanistan, at no cost to the evacuees that included Americans, residents, and visa holders.
The State Department expressed concerns regarding the accuracy of the volunteer group’s passenger manifest because they lacked personnel on the ground needed to accurately vet the lists.
A State Department spokesperson said that they have been evaluating whether or not to support privately organized flights out of Afghanistan with Afghan SIV holders and others on a “case by case basis.” They also said that this support requires evaluating passenger manifests provided by these groups and determining potential eligibility for permanent residency within the U.S.
“Without personnel on the ground to ensure the fidelity of the intended manifests, there is no ability to determine whether the passengers aboard the plane would be eligible for relocation or resettlement in the United States,” the State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
The State Department spokesperson said that two crucial elements of relocating groups were to be able to arrange departure and safe passage out of Afghanistan, as well as a temporary and eventually permanent residence upon arrival. The spokesperson said there have been significant challenges with these flights.
There have been several instances where individuals can not pass identity checks upon arrival at transport destinations. In many cases individuals either lack eligibility for relocation in the U.S or the flight manifests are inaccurate despite best efforts from the private organizations, according to a spokesperson.
“This puts the individual travelers at risk with no plan for relocation to the United States; damages the bilateral relationship of the United States with the destination countries; and makes it more difficult for the U.S. government to rely on those partner countries to assist in future relocations out of Afghanistan,” the spokeswoman said.
These eligibility restrictions will leave behind tens of thousands of Afghans that have applied for visas based on their work with the U.S.