Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the Taliban is preventing chartered flights from leaving Afghanistan because some onboard do not have the required documentation.
“As of now, the Taliban are not permitting the charter flights to depart,” Blinken said at a news conference at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. “They claim that some of the passengers do not have the required documentation.”
“While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground, without an airport with normal security procedures in place, we are working to do everything within our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground,” he added. “That’s what we've done and that's what we will continue to do.”
Blinken, 59, said that the U.S. is working with nongovernmental organizations, advocates and lawmakers to “help coordinate their efforts and offer guidance where we can.”
“We have made clear to all parties, we have made clear to the Taliban that these charters need to be able to depart,” he said. “We continue every day, virtually every hour to work on that.”
Hundreds of Americans, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and green card holders are still in Afghanistan after the pullout of U.S. troops last month. There was pressure on the Biden administration to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan until Americans who wanted to leave had been evacuated. But after the military pullout, the administration assured that there would be a diplomatic mission to ensure that additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans could depart from the country.
John Bass, the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, was tasked with spearheading the State Department’s effort to help American citizens, citizens of allied nations, special immigrant visa applicants and Afghans at high risk leave the country.
In an earlier press conference, Blinken shared assurance he received for a senior Taliban official who vowed that “any Afghans may leave the country, including those who worked for Americans, if they want and for whatever reason there may be.”
In a joint statement last month, about half of the world’s countries acknowledged they had “received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.”
“We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries,” the joint statement reads. “We note the public statements of the Taliban confirming this understanding.”
Earlier this week, it was reported that over 1,000 people, including Americans, have waited for clearance for their charter flights to depart from an airport in Mazar-i-Sharif. An organizer blamed the State Department, telling Reuters that the agency had failed to inform the Taliban of the flights’ approval.
On Tuesday, Blinken denied reports that the Taliban was blocking Americans from leaving Afghanistan. Blinken said that the challenges around these flights were that some people lacked travel documents, which delayed departure for the whole group.
“And it’s my understanding is that the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document, but they have said those without valid documents, at this point, can’t leave,” Blinken said.
“Because all of these people are grouped together, that’s meant that flights have not been allowed to go.”
On Wednesday, Blinken said that many of these flights were organized by NGOs and individuals with a “deeply felt desire to help people.”
“[W]e’re grateful to be working with so many passionate advocates, but there’s also a risk of people looking to extort money from desperate and vulnerable people, which of course we want to prevent,” he said.
One veteran alleges that the Biden administration has thwarted his efforts to evacuate Americans from Afghanistan and is falsely taking credit for his team’s successful evacuation of a family of American citizens.
Cory Mills, a Republican congressional candidate and Army combat veteran, elaborated on his collaboration with Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., and others to evacuate a U.S. citizen and her three children from Afghanistan during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday.
“Originally, our plan was to go ahead and do an air evac. That was absolutely thwarted by the … CENTCOM Command and the State Department,” Mills said.
Appearing on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” Tuesday, Mills explained that “they were manifested on another aircraft ... [that] had been approved by the Taliban, had been approved by the DOD [and] had been approved by the State Department.”
“And right before the [last] hour when it was ready to fly, the State Department went ahead and canceled that flight or disapproved … that flight because they wanted to vet the manifest, which I can understand and appreciate,” Mills added.
Due to Mills’ inability to fly the family out of Afghanistan, they were evacuated into a neighboring country via an overland route.
Jackson reported on Twitter Monday that “After 2 weeks & multiple life threatening attempts, I am overjoyed to share that 4 U.S. citizens from #TX13 were part of the first successful ground evacuation since the U.S. left Kabul.”
The family of four in question resides in Texas’ 13th Congressional District, which Jackson represents. Throughout the previous two weeks, Jackson detailed some of the dangers the family experienced trying to flee the country.
“They have been just outside the airport numerous times, but the State Department WILL NOT help them,” he lamented in an Aug. 28 tweet. “They have been beaten by the Taliban at checkpoints and told to leave and come back with large sums of money.”
In statements to national news outlets, the U.S. State Department has claimed that it helped secure the family’s evacuation.
In an email to Fox News, a State Department spokesperson declared that “The Department assisted four Americans depart Afghanistan via an overland route on Monday.”
“We provided guidance to them, worked to facilitate their safe passage, and Embassy officials greeted the Americans once they had crossed the border,” the spokesperson stated.
Those directly involved with the family’s evacuation have disputed this narrative.
Mills told Cuomo that he did not receive support from the State Department until they had already evacuated the family into the neighboring country.
Mullin described a CNN tweet asserting that “the US helped facilitate the departure of four American citizens from Afghanistan via an overland route, a state official says” as a “flat out lie.”
According to Mullin, “The Biden Administration abandoned them.”
“Let’s be clear, it was our team of patriots who worked around the clock for two weeks to get them out, despite the many roadblocks from the State Department,” Mullin added.
Dissatisfied with the administration’s efforts to evacuate Americans and vulnerable Afghans from the country, many private groups, including Glenn Beck’s Nazarene Fund, have opted to conduct evacuations themselves.
In an appearance on Fox News last month, Beck, a conservative talk radio host, alleged that “The State Department has blocked us every step of the way.”
The Biden administration continues to face criticism about its handling of the Afghanistan pullout more than a week after the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan.
While the Biden administration estimated that between 100 and 200 Americans who would like to leave Afghanistan remain in the country, critics of the administration, including Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., have placed that number much higher.
Issa told the Associated Press that he believes the actual number of U.S. citizens remaining in Afghanistan is closer to 500. He contended that when including the family members of U.S. citizens, that number rises to 1,000.
The fallout of the Afghanistan pullout, including bombings in and around the Kabul Airport that left 13 U.S. military service members dead, has taken a toll on the president’s approval ratings.
The RealClear Politics polling average, updated Wednesday, measured President Joe Biden’s disapproval rating at a record high of 49.5%. A poll conducted last week by Rasmussen Reports found that 52% of Americans think the president should resign over his administration's handling of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org