Billionaire Military Contractor Was Selling Tickets to Leave Afghanistan for $6,500: Report

The U.S., Biden spokesman Jen Psaki said, "wouldn't be supportive of profiting off of people who are desperate to get out of a country"

Erik Prince
Erik Prince. Photo: Jeenah Moon/getty

Amid a massive evacuation effort out of Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover and before the U.S. left, controversial billionaire security contractor Erik Prince was offering his own flight from the turmoil — at a steep price — The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the paper, Prince, 52, was selling tickets for a chartered plane out of Afghanistan at a base rate of $6,500. The cost was higher if people were in their homes and needed help getting to the airport in Kabul. The Journal reported it was unclear whether Prince had the resources to carry out the plan.

Word of Prince's ticketed evacuation plan drew condemnation from the Biden White House and a sharp response from Prince himself on Fox News. (He did not respond to PEOPLE's calls and emails seeking comment.)

Prince, a businessman and former Navy SEAL, is the founder of the Blackwater military company, now called Academi. His sister Betsy DeVos was the secretary of education under President Donald Trump.

Prince is close to Trump; in one of his last acts as president, Trump pardoned four Blackwater agents who had been convicted for their part in a 2007 attack that killed 17 Iraqi citizens.

In 2018, Prince proposed a $5 billion plan that would have replaced most U.S. troops in Afghanistan with private forces. Trump's advisers reportedly convinced him to reject Prince's idea.

When asked last week about the Journal's reporting on Prince's chartered plane, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she would have to "check and see" if there were any consequences for American citizens taking such actions.

"We are evacuating tens of thousands of people every day for free," she said.

Afghanistan evacuations

The U.S., Psaki said, "wouldn't be supportive of profiting off of people who are desperate to get out of a country."

"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," she said.

Prince fired back in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, lambasting the Biden administration for "how quickly America abandoned its friends in Afghanistan and left in such a horribly chaotic and clumsy manner​."

Dozens of aid groups and private organizations as well as large, loose grassroots network of veterans and others had been supplementing the U.S. government's evacuation efforts, which ended on Monday night with the withdrawal complete.

The Pentagon said more than 120,000 people got out of the country by that time and less than 200 Americans, most of them dual citizens with family ties in the country, remained.

President Joe Biden said he was "committed" to helping anyone who wanted to leave the country still, though he and his administration had faced fierce criticism for how the withdrawal unfolded.

If you would like to support those in need during the upheaval in Afghanistan, consider:

* Donating to UNICEF to aid Afghans in the country or

* Donating to the International Refugee Assistance Project to help those fleeing.

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