Most evacuation flights scheduled to depart Afghanistan this week have been canceled, according to a State Department email sent to US citizens in the country on Monday that was reviewed by CNN.
The email did not say why the flights had been canceled and told the recipients to “be ready to travel on short notice,” given how quickly the situation has been evolving.
“We will continue our efforts to facilitate the safe and orderly travel of US citizens, LPRs, and Afghans to whom we have special commitments and wish to leave Afghanistan. Because there is an ongoing terrorist threat to operations of this nature, we will not be sharing details of these efforts before people are safely out of the country,” a State Department spokesperson said, adding that they will continue to engage diplomatically with the Taliban to resolve any issues.
Thousands of people – including at least 129 US citizens and 115 US green card holders — have departed Afghanistan with US assistance since the NATO withdrawal was completed at the end of August, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday. The department has formed a team to coordinate across government agencies and with outside groups to facilitate the departure of American citizens, legal permanent residents of the US and Afghans.
But there are still Americans and many Afghans in the country who are finding it incredibly hard to leave, and the email underlines just how challenging the situation is.
According to the State Department, about 100 US citizens remain in Afghanistan who wish to depart. Price said one flight left the country on Monday but provided no details about who was on board or why that flight left and others are not.
One American citizen, Prince Wafa, told CNN he is still in Afghanistan after more than a month of trying to get out of the country. He was hoping to be on a flight this week, but it was canceled.
Wafa, who became a US citizen in 2019, lives in San Diego, where he owns a 7-Eleven, having previously worked as an interpreter with the US military in Afghanistan. He traveled to Afghanistan over the summer when he was trying to figure out how to get his wife to the US. She applied for a visa in 2020 but had not yet received approval.
“I came here to get her out and we both got stuck,” Wafa said.
The 30-year-old American says he has been told by US officials that his wife can fly out of the country with him but they have not been able to get onto any of the departing flights.
Earlier this month he went to the airport with his wife for a flight, but it was canceled when they got there. He worried about their safety when he left the airport to return to their rented apartment in Kabul, fearing that the Taliban would see him leaving and target him.
Some of his recent conversations with US officials have been deflating, he said.
“In the last week or so my contact with US State Department was absolutely useless. It seemed like they were googling information,” Wafa said. “After my flight was canceled, I said who should I call for help? Should I call the Taliban for help? The lady told me call whomever you think will help you.”