Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of military contractor Blackwater, is charging nearly £5,000 per seat on a chartered plane out of Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Prince told the newspaper that £4,700 covered getting the passenger into the airport as well, though the paper noted that it was not clear whether he actually had the ability to accomplish such manoeuvring.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticised Prince – whose company made millions from the war in Afghanistan – when asked about his decision to charge desperate Afghans thousands of dollars to escape a potential death sentence.
“I don’t think any human being who has a heart and soul would support efforts to profit off of people’s agony and pain as they’re trying to depart a country and fearing for their lives,” Psaki said during a press conference.
Blackwater employees were convicted seven years ago of murdering over a dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians during the US-led conflict in the country. Prince, an ally of former President Donald Trump and brother of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has more recently been accused by the United Nations of violating an international weapons embargo on Libya.
Western forces and aid groups, assisted by veterans who served in Afghanistan, are scrambling to pull thousands of increasingly distressed residents safely out of the country before the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops. Many of those filing into cavernous military C-17s for a chance at a new life have only the few belongings they can carry, sometimes no more than what they are wearing.
Time to flee is rapidly dwindling: The White House has warned that evacuations will likely need to wrap up by the weekend so the military has enough time to ship out its own troops and equipment.
Due to the sheer volume of people trying to fly out of Kabul, a patchwork of private evacuation flights has materialised, although some have been flying out with empty seats amid a chaotic situation on the ground. While Western forces still control the Kabul airport, the Taliban reigns outside, and reports indicate that even getting to the airport gates can be very risky.
Afghans who helped US forces, such as translators and fixers, are working to secure themselves and their families the US visas promised to them by President Joe Biden. The visa application process is generally not a speedy one, and the White House has, in recent days, been emphasising the extent of the background checks each applicant undergoes before reaching the US.
Biden and other administration officials have said they could not have anticipated how quickly Kabul fell to the Taliban, although the president’s claim has been met with an onslaught of criticism.
Over the last two weeks, an enormous amount of people – more than 80,000 as of Wednesday – have been airlifted out of Kabul to third countries, according to the White House.