A group of U.S. citizens and Afghan evacuees are allowed to travel to the United States from the United Arab Emirates after being temporarily detained, the Gulf State Department said.
The 117 passengers were stopped at Abu Dhabi International Airport after arriving from Kabul, said a lawyer who worked to relocate the passengers.
In an e-mail on Thursday to the Reuters news agency, the UAE State Department said that “the processing of these passengers has been completed and they have already departed this morning on a commercial aircraft (Etihad)”.
A lawyer Stan Bunner, who works with those passengers , told Al media that all passengers were US citizens, permanent legal residents, or special immigrant visa applicants. They were 59 children under the age of 18.
The Bunner, who is part of an ad-hoc group of U.S. veterans called Project Dynamo, which was formed to flee the Afghans after the Taliban took control of the country on August 15, said the ‘US Customs and Border Patrol repeatedly denied the plane permission to enter the United States.
He said the group’s organizers believed they had full US landing permits when the Kam Air flight they were chartering departed from Kabul.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security previously told media that any passenger manifest of US-bound flights “must be verified before leaving for the US to ensure that all passengers are scanned appropriately”.
A State Department spokesman said Wednesday that UAE embassy staff are reviewing the passenger papers.
The United States withdrew its troops completely from Afghanistan on August 30, intensifying a chaotic evacuation operation in recent weeks after the Taliban seized power.
Defense officials have since acknowledged the U.S. was surprised by the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Kabul, with Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley saying a Senate committee on Tuesday the withdrawal was a “strategic failure”.
While the U.S. and its allies flew about 120,000 people out of the country, officials acknowledged that hundreds of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are likely to remain in Afghanistan.