US halts inbound Afghan evacuee flights after measles outbreak

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US halts inbound Afghan evacuee flights after measles outbreak

All flights into the United States carrying Afghanistan evacuees have been halted in the wake of a measles outbreak.

The flights from two main airbases in Germany and Qatar were temporarily paused after four Afghans who recently arrived in the US were diagnosed with measles, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Friday.

The decision to stop the flights was based on a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pskai said.

The four people are currently in isolation and the CDC is in the process of contact tracing.

“All arriving Afghans are required to be immunized against measles as a condition of entry,” Psaki told a press briefing.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the four Afghans were asked to provide proof of their measles vaccinations prior to arriving in the US.

The White House hasn’t revealed where the measles cases were detected but it follows reports from early in the week that the Fort McCoy Army Base in Wisconsin had a confirmed case.

A Taliban fighter stands guard as passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft at Kabul, Afghanistan on September 10, 2021.
A Taliban fighter stands guard as passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft at Kabul, Afghanistan on September 10, 2021.
AFP via Getty Images

The halt is expected to “severely impact” operations at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, according to a US government document seen by The Associated Press that addresses the situation.

It will also have an “adverse effect” on the 10,000 evacuees currently waiting to arrive in the US, the document warned.

Germany agreed to allow Afghan evacuees to stay in the country for 10 days to be processed. Some waiting to be put on flights to the US have already been at the German base for 10 days.

A Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar takes off from the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021.
The American pause on evaluation flights could disrupt approximately 10,000 people waiting to come into the US.
AFP via Getty Images

It is just the latest issue to arise from the Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The pause on flights into the US came as 19 Americans flew out of Kabul on board a Qatar Airlines commercial flight Friday — the second flight out of Afghanistan in as many days.

The flight, which arrived in Doha later Friday, was carrying 158 passengers, a Qatari official told CNN.

A security guard reviews documentation from an Afghan woman before boarding a flight at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 10, 2021.
A security guard reviews documentation from an Afghan woman before boarding a flight at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 10, 2021.
West Asia News Agency via REUTERS

German, Canadian, French, Dutch, British, Belgian and Mauritanian citizens joined the 19 Americans on the Qatar flight.

In addition to the Americans on board the flight, the White House said two US citizens and 11 permanent residents left Afghanistan overland to a third country.

“We are continuing intensive work across the U.S. government to facilitate the safe transit of these individuals and other U.S. citizens, LPRs, and Afghans who have worked for us who wish to leave Afghanistan,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said.

Afghan evacuees board an outgoing flight in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 10, 2021.
Afghan evacuees board an outgoing flight in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 10, 2021.
West Asia News Agency via REUTERS

“We are deeply grateful to the continued efforts of Qatar in facilitating operations at the Kabul International Airport and continuing to help ensure the safety of charter flights.”

It comes a day after another Qatar Airways flight carrying about 200 people, including Americans and foreign nationals, left Kabul.

In a statement confirming Thursday’s flight, the Biden administration praised the Taliban for their “cooperation” in getting Americans out.

Zainag Momeny, a teacher from Afghanistan, arrives for a press conference at Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile on September 10, 2021.
Zainag Momeny, a teacher from Afghanistan, arrives for a press conference at Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile on September 10, 2021.
Getty Images

“They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step,” a statement from Horne said.

The Biden administration was later criticized for referring to the brutal regime in a favorable light.

Jill Stephenson, a Gold Star mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan, told the Post the phrasing was “horribly blasphemous”.

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the pause of evacuation flights after several evacuees tested positive for measles.
AFP via Getty Images

“Wow, the first word that comes to mind … was blasphemous, horribly blasphemous,” Stephenson said. “To call the Taliban that — it’s absolutely disgusting. And it’s coming from the White House.”

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