Rep. McCaul accuses Taliban of blocking six US planes in Afghanistan
Rep. Michael McCaul told FOX News the Taliban is holding Americans and Afghan interpreters hostage on six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport.
The US ended its military operation to evacuate Afghans and Americans 31 August when the last of the US troops departed from Kabul airport in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Anthony Bliken said that the US would make every effort to get US citizens who were left behind out of the country when they chose to do so.
Those efforts by the State Department have run into a hitch, with reports the Taliban denying permission for several chartered flights to leave the country with American citizens and Afghans on board. The exact number of people on the planes and trying to leave is unknown but is estimated to be in the hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand and have been there for “the last couple days,” according to a top Republican lawmaker.
The Taliban are “holding them hostage”
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Taliban of stopping Afghans and Americans from leaving the country. He told Chris Wallace that there are six airplanes at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport, located in northern Afghanistan, with American citizens who “the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now.”
McCaul said that Afghan interpreters were also among those the Taliban was refusing permission to leave. When asked by Wallace how many people the US has been able to get out since the US military left “I understand zero” McCaul said. He also expressed concerns that the Taliban is “going to demand more and more, whether it be cash or legitimacy as the government of Afghanistan.”
State Department email confirms planes being prevented from leaving
Excerpts of an email obtained by CBS from the State Department to members of congress confirms that there are chartered planes on the ground at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport that "if and when the Taliban agrees" to departure the planes will fly to Doha. Other media outlets have confirmed that the chartered flights have been held up from accounts by NGO staff who are presently on those flights or waiting nearby.
The number of planes being held up may be higher according to Marina LeGree of the Ascend Athletics NGO. She told the BBC that she believes the holdup is due to a dispute between the Taliban and the Afghan airline Kam Air. A group of 34 people from her organization have been waiting for six days to leave, including 19 Americans and two green card holders. She said that there may be upwards of a thousand people trying to leave but can’t.
The Taliban for their part is denying the claims that the flights are being held up telling the BBC "This is not true. Our Mujahideen have nothing to do with ordinary Afghans. This is propaganda and we reject it," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.