As the US attempts to evacuate Americans and allies before the Aug. 31 deadline, defense contractor and Blackwater founder Erik Prince is reportedly chartering flights to transfer people out of Afghanistan.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Prince is promising to transport guests securely through Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport and aboard a charter jet for $6,500 per seat.
According to the article, he is charging more if individuals are stranded in their houses and require assistance traveling to the airport.
It was unclear if Prince had the funds or resources to carry out such rescues, or who they were being offered to, and there was no indication Prince was benefiting from the jet charters.
Prince, a former Navy SEAL and Trump supporter, co-founded the private military firm Blackwater in 1997, which is now known as Academi.
During the Iraq War, Blackwater was recognized in the United States for providing some of the harsher military contractors.
When his contractors massacred 17 Iraqi citizens in the Nisour Square tragedy in 2007, his firm earned notoriety. Four agents were convicted of the attack in 2014, but Trump pardoned them all in December last year.
According to a report to the UN Security Council, Prince—who is Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother—was accused of breaking the UN arms embargo against Libya. Prince has vehemently denied any misconduct.
His $6,500 proposal to assist with the evacuation of Afghans comes as Americans and Afghans scramble to escape Kabul as the evacuation window closes.
He is one of several contractors, veterans, and charity workers attempting to evacuate as many people as possible from Kabul before President Biden’s deadline expires on Aug. 31.
The Taliban have issued an ultimatum for all U.S. soldiers to leave by that date, threatening retaliation if they do not.
Special rescue teams from the United States have been dispatched to the city to assist Americans in getting to the airport.
On Tuesday, Biden warned of a “increasing risk” of a terror strike by an ISIS Afghan branch, ISIS-K, but claimed the U.S. was “on track” to leave Afghanistan by the deadline.
In the 24 hours leading up to Wednesday morning, another 11,200 individuals were evacuated from Kabul on 42 U.S. military planes, according to the White House. A total of 7,800 persons were evacuated by friendly aircraft.
According to the White House, roughly 82,300 individuals have been evacuated aboard U.S. military and partner planes since Aug. 14.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, later chastised Erik Prince over allegations that he is charging $6,500 per ticket for chartered flights out of Afghanistan.
At Wednesday’s White House press conference, Ms Psaki said, “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,” despite the fact that Prince’s employees previously rescued Vice President Joe Biden from Taliban territory.
In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson the same day in response to Jen Psaki, the former Navy SEAL said the Biden administration’s botched evacuation effort and the president’s unwillingness to extend the deadline have “shattered the faith” of America’s friends.
“So we have shattered the confidence of our European allies and every other ally around the world that America depends, whether you’re a CIA agent trying to recruit somebody to work for you or whether you’re a country that America wants you to compete with—to side with us versus something that the Chinese want—it will definitely figure into people’s thinking how quickly America abandoned its friends in Afghanistan and left in such a horribly chaotic and clumsy manner.”
He also mentioned that when Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got trapped in a snowstorm in 2008, Blackwater forces had to rescue them.
“They were on a congressional visit to Afghanistan in the winter and their U.S. Army helicopter got lost in a blinding snowstorm and set down in Taliban territory on the side of a mountain,” he told Carlson.
“And the U.S. military launched a ground convoy to get them and they got lost and the Blackwater guys launched and they did not get lost. And we recovered them. We rescued them from Taliban territory. That was the winter of ’08,” he said.
Prince—the brother of Betsy DeVos, education secretary under President Donald Trump—was asked if they were “grateful.”
”You would think so, but no. I didn’t get a Christmas card—I have yet to. In their office they thanked the U.S. military,” he said. ”It was veteran contractors, doing their job, once again.”
President Joe Biden announced earlier this week that he would not extend the Aug. 31 deadline for Afghan evacuation operations, implying that even private initiatives like Prince’s would be forced to halt.
“We are currently on a pace to finish by August the 31st. The sooner we can finish, the better” On Tuesday, Biden stated. “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”
“There is no way with the numbers of people on the ground that we will be able to get everybody out by Aug. 31,” said Army veteran Alex Plitsas, who is presently participating in rescue efforts in Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan is “total chaos,” according to Warren Binford, a University of Colorado law professor who has aided in the evacuation attempts.
“What’s happening is that we’re seeing a massive underground railroad operation where, instead of running for decades, it’s literally running for a matter of hours, or days,” he continued.
“It’s a combination of tragic, surreal and apocalyptic,” said Stacia George, director of the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program, who has also been assisting with evacuation operations. “It’s so frustrating to get high-risk people up to the gate and have them risking their lives to go there and you still can’t get them through. It’s a disaster in slow–and fast-motion.”