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'Holding them hostage': GOP lawmaker says Taliban is refusing to let planes with Americans depart

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/5/2021 Mike Brest
Michael McCaul wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone © Provided by Washington Examiner

Congressman Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed that the Taliban are not allowing planes carrying Americans to leave Afghanistan.

The congressman said “zero” Americans have been able to leave the country since the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan less than a week ago because the Taliban are holding them "hostage."

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“We have six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif airport, six airplanes, with American citizens on them as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now,” he said on Fox News Sunday morning. “State has cleared these flights, and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport.”

McCaul added that the Taliban “are not clearing the airplanes to depart” and that the people trying to flee have “sat at the airport for the last couple of days,” in part because “the Taliban want something in exchange.”

His office did not respond to a request for comment regarding his claims.

CBS reporter Eena Ruffini also reported that “multiple flights are being held on the ground” at the airport, adding that the State Department told members of Congress via email that charter flights are still grounded and will have permission to land in Qatar or Doha "if and when the Taliban agrees to takeoff.”

President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, said Sunday that there are “around a hundred” Americans left in Afghanistan, though McCaul claimed the number is "in the hundreds."

Biden administration officials have repeatedly said that the mission in Afghanistan has transitioned from a militaristic one to a diplomatic one, placing the burden on the State Department to negotiate how and when Americans can leave Afghanistan following the military's departure.

Ascend, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Afghan teens and young women through mountaineering, said it has people on planes forbidden to take off.

Marina LeGree, the founder and executive director of the program, told the Washington Examiner, “We've been stuck for 6 days. First our own State Dept caused a delay and now it's the Taliban and Kam Air in endless negotiations about price (or so we're told).”

The group is waiting to evacuate between 600 and 1,200 people, including 19 American citizens, Ruffini added.

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“We don't have visibility on the larger issues; we know what it's like to be stuck waiting. My group is mostly Hazara girls aged 16-23,” LeGree continued. “It isn't safe for them to be held in the large group of anxious people, jostling for space. Gatekeepers are now letting in more and more people to the holding area for a price, and those people are trying to bribe their way onto the manifests. It isn't at all clear who is in charge, or how this will end.“

The Pentagon directed the Washington Examiner to the State Department when reached for comment, while the State Department did not respond to a request for confirmation regarding McCaul's claim.

 

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Tags: News, Michael McCaul, Taliban, Afghanistan, War in Afghanistan, Pentagon, State Department

Original Author: Mike Brest

Original Location: 'Holding them hostage': GOP lawmaker says Taliban is refusing to let planes with Americans depart

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