The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Sunday the Taliban is blocking a half dozen planes with American citizens and permanent residents, as well as Afghan interpreters, from departing Afghanistan, accusing the militant group of holding the flights “hostage.”
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) claimed in a Fox News Sunday interview that six planes have been sitting at the Mazar-i-Sharif international airport “for the last couple of days,” information that appears to come from a State Department email to members of Congress.
McCaul suggested the flights are being held hostage until the U.S. recognizes the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate governing power, as it now controls the vast majority of the country, but U.S. officials have thus far declined to do so.
The State Department told lawmakers the flights will have permission to depart for Doha, Qatar – where the U.S. has been processing Afghans applying for special immigrant visas – ”if and when the Taliban agrees to takeoff,” according to CBS News.
Marina LeGree, the executive director of Ascend, an NGO that offers young women “athletics-based leadership training,” told Forbes she knows of between 600 and 1200 people including 19 U.S. citizens and 2 green card holders waiting nearby the airport, but that there are “probably more.”
LeGree said the group includes female mountaineers, NGO workers, journalist and women at risk, and that her understanding is the Taliban is negotiating with Afghan airline Kam Air over price – though she added, “For 6 days, who knows.”
A State Department spokesperson told Forbes they lack a “reliable means to confirm the basic details of charter flights” because of the absence of U.S. personnel on the ground.
“More and more people are coming, some of whom are not on the manifest but are paying a bribe to the gatekeepers. Conditions are deteriorating,” LeGree told Forbes.
0. That’s how many Americans and Afghan allies have departed Afghanistan since U.S. troops finished their withdrawal from the region last Monday, McCaul said in the interview.
Biden has taken significant heat from some lawmakers for completing the withdrawal of troops on schedule even as some Americans were still trying to evacuate. White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in a CNN interview Sunday around 100 Americans remain in the country, but expressed hope commercial flights out of the country will resume “in the coming days.”