US defense contractor Erik Prince – founder of the security services firm Blackwater – is charging $6,500 per seat for flights out of Kabul, Afghanistan, servicing stranded US citizens and foreign nationals, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The evacuation of diplomatic missions, foreign nationals and Afghans has been underway since the takeover of the Taliban terror group on August 15, but has become particularly urgent as the Biden administration decided to pull US troops out by August 31, leaving chaotic scenes of people scrambling to get to the Kabul airport to leave Afghanistan.
The Taliban has encircled the airport and is trying to prevent individuals from reaching the facility.
The report said Prince announced the price will be higher for services involving extricating people who have not been able to reach the Kabul airport and are trapped in their homes or elsewhere.
Blackwater, which has since been renamed to Academi, gained notoriety in 2007 after its employees gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad while under contract by the US government.
The US authorities have investigated Prince for sending mercenaries to foreign governments after he went into business with China’s largest state-owned investment firm in 2014 and founded the Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group. Prince has denied the charges.
In early, 2021 Prince was accused of allegedly violating the UN arms embargo imposed on Libya in 2019, by delivering weapons to the Libyan National Army when it attempted to overthrow the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that the US will prioritize evacuating military resources out of Afghanistan in the final two days before the full withdrawal deadline on August 31.
“We are going to try to preserve as much capability as we can at the airport, so in those last couple of days, we will begin to prioritize military capabilities and military resources to move out,” Kirby said during a press briefing.
Kirby clarified that such prioritizing does not mean that those people who will be willing to evacuate in the last days will be barred from doing so.
Additionally, the US military conducted another helicopter operation on Tuesday night to bring individuals seeking to evacuate Afghanistan to the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul, US Army Major General William Taylor said.
“Last night, during the period of darkness, there was an operation to be able to go out and safely evacuate evacuees back into Kabul. They are at HKIA, and they are safely there preparing to be evacuated,” Taylor said during a press briefing.
Defense Department Spokesperson John Kirby added that it was a helicopter operation involving less than 20 individuals.