Measles outbreak forces suspension of Afghan evacuee flights into US


Washington DC
An Afghan passenger takes a selfie before boarding a flight at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 10, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

Because of confirmed measles cases among Afghans who have just arrived in the United States, the United States has temporarily halted all Afghan evacuee flights to the United States.

The suspension was suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "out an abundance of caution." White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday.

According to her, four Afghans diagnosed with measles in the United States were isolated in compliance with public health norms.

The stoppage, according to the Associated Press, affected flights from US bases in Germany and Qatar.

The White House announced earlier Friday that another 32 U.S. citizens or permanent residents had departed Afghanistan with US assistance.

The second flight

A spokesperson for the National Security Council, Emily Horne, said 19 people had departed aboard a Qatar Airways flight, and 13 others had fled via land. The flight was the Taliban's second evacuation flight since U.S. troops left Afghanistan.

"Today's departures demonstrate how we are giving Americans clear and safe options to leave Afghanistan from different locations," Horne said in a statement released on Friday.

According to Jalina Porter of the State Department, the United States offered tickets on Friday's trip to 44 U.S. citizens, but not all of them opted to fly. She thought that there were 100 Americans still in Afghanistan.

Taliban authorities in Afghanistan let the first Qatari charter flight leave Kabul airport on Thursday, the first evacuee flight since the US military mission in Afghanistan concluded on August 31.

"The Taliban have cooperated in allowing American Americans and legitimate permanent residents to fly out of [Kabul airport] on charter flights. In our encounters with them in this attempt, they have demonstrated flexibility and have been businesslike and professional. This is an encouraging first step. "Horne announced in a statement released on Thursday.

"continue these efforts to facilitate the safe and orderly travel of American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghans who worked for us and wish to leave Afghanistan," Horne stated.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha earlier this week to seek support for Americans and at-risk Afghans evacuation was left behind in Afghanistan when the Taliban took control.

According to State Department spokesperson Ned Price, Blinken "commended the government of Qatar for its work to safely evacuate people" and "conveyed U.S. appreciation for Qatar's help facilitating the travel of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and others from Kabul," in a call with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani on Thursday.

Thousands of people were left behind.

However, according to Hazami Barmada, an independent humanitarian supporting evacuation attempts, many at-risk Afghans and some Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan. Estimates differ as to how many Afghans are eligible for special visas due to their employment with the US or their position as a member of a vulnerable group. Still, it is thought to be in the thousands.

According to Thursday evening local time, at least 705 people, including nine Americans, nine U.S. legal permanent residents, and 170 holders of Special Immigrant Visas, were still waiting for the green signal to leave Mazar-e-Sharif Thursday evening local time Barmada. SIVs are visas for Afghans who worked as interpreters or in other support roles during the United States' 20-year presence in Afghanistan.

"According to what we've learned from the negotiator, the State Department and the Taliban are currently engaged in extensive conversations. And we're really hopeful that our planes don't be canceled, especially since they've already been promised a departure time, "Barmada remarked.

In Mazar-e-Sharif, it was unclear how many charter flights were scheduled to depart. Only two charter planes were attempting to leave Afghanistan, according to a State Department official.

Blinken blamed the Taliban for the postponed departures on Wednesday.

Bilal Karimi, a member of the Taliban Cultural Commission, told VOA on Thursday that concerns about foreign nationals unable to leave Afghanistan are "misplaced,"

"Routine commercial flights are still suspended," he continued, "but as soon as they resume, anyone intending to leave or enter the country with valid documents, passports, and visas will be able to do so."

Confusion over charter flights

While the US maintains that it played no role in blocking flights from taking off, it also claims that a lack of American employees on the ground and the inability to verify passengers' credentials and flight manifests are among the main reasons these flights have been unable to take off.

"So, a number of these planes, they may have a handful of American citizens, but they may have several hundred individuals where we don't have manifests for them, we don't know what the security protocols are for them, we don't know what their documentation is," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday.

"Are we going to allow a plane with hundreds of people, where we don't know who they are, we don't know what security protocols have been put in place, to land on a U.S. military base?" Psaki enquired.

The US government has "a fair amount of confusion," according to Blinken, who stated that there is "working to do everything in our power to support those flights and get them off the ground." about charter flights.

On August 15, the Taliban gained control of Kabul, ending a remarkable military assault that engulfed most of Afghanistan.

Thousands of Afghans, mostly the educated and those who worked with international forces, fear Taliban retaliation following the Islamist movement's return to power. These individuals want to leave Afghanistan, but Taliban commanders are asking them to stay and assist in the country's rehabilitation to avoid an economic collapse.

The Taliban announced their "caretaker" government on Tuesday. Still, some of their controversial actions, such as an alleged crackdown on journalists and anti-Taliban protests, have already cast doubt on the Islamist movement's commitment to protect human rights and not retaliate against the former Afghan government officials.

Publish : 2021-09-11 07:47:00

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