Fact Check

Was the State Department Charging Americans $2K for Flights out of Afghanistan?

Chaotic evacuation efforts were underway amidst the Taliban takeover.

Published Aug 23, 2021

210818-M-TU241-1015 HAMID KARZAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Afghanistan (August 18, 2021) A Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) provides security during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18. U.S. Marines are assisting the Department of State with an orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaiah Campbell) (U.S. Central Command Public Affairs/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via U.S. Central Command Public Affairs/Wikimedia Commons
Per an Aug. 14, 2021 notice, the State Department was charging $2,000 or more for repatriation flights for U.S. citizens from Kabul airport after the Taliban takeover.

After news of the costs of repatriation flights gained traction online resulting in outrage, the State Department changed the rule, saying they would no longer be charging citizens for the cost of taking a charter flight out of Afghanistan. Evacuees are not expected to reimburse the government for repatriation fees.

As the Taliban took over major cities across Afghanistan, including Kabul, in August 2021, the U.S. government began efforts to repatriate its many citizens who were working and residing in the country. Desperate scenes of Afghans trying to board flights at Kabul airport went viral, along with reports of gunfire, and large crushing crowds resulting in many deaths.

Amid this chaos, one State Department mandate came under scrutiny: Americans trying to catch one of the government chartered flights out of the country were to be charged $2,000 or more for the ticket. This rule was brought to the forefront by Politico, and caused outrage among U.S. politicians such as Ted Cruz, and many on social media.

The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a State Department division that provides security cooperation between the government and American private sector groups around the world, posted a notification on its website on Aug. 14, 2021, titled “Afghanistan, Repatriation Assistance for U.S. Citizens." The alert said people eligible to board a repatriation flight had to be U.S. citizens, and were required to pay for the flight costs. It stated, “Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid. The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person.”

After outrage spread, Ned Price, State Department spokesperson, told The Hill and Politico that “In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan.” When asked by a Politico reporter if they would stop requiring evacuating citizens to sign a promissory loan agreement, he said, “Yes.”

Mere days after the original OSAC security alert, it now carries this amendment to the statement, “OSAC notes that the costs involved in repatriation have changed since the U.S. Embassy in Kabul released this Alert. It remains correct for the date of its release, 8/14/2021, but has been superceded by follow-up alerts from the Embassy.”

We should note that normally under federal law, “U.S. citizens must reimburse the State Department for evacuation and repatriation expenses incurred on their behalf.” This time, however, the State Department appears to have made an exception.

We thus rate this claim as “True,” with the caveat that evacuees are no longer expected to reimburse the government for repatriation fees.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.