Six jets are said to be still stuck at the airport in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city. The Taliban will not allow them to exit, the State Department says, and now word is the State Department is telling countries not to take the planes, which contain an unknown number of Americans who have been stuck on the planes for six days.
Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN that the number of Americans on those planes is in the hundreds. There are also reported Afghan allies — those Afghans who helped the Americans during the 20-year war.
“(The Taliban) are not clearing the airplanes to depart. They’ve sat at the airport for the last couple of days,” McCaul said on Fox News Sunday. “We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange. This is … turning into a hostage situation where they’re not going to allow American citizens leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America.”
McCaul has referred to the passengers as hostages, a characterization disputed by the Newsweek editor who is monitoring the story. Newsweek editor-at-large Naveed Jamali wrote: “Also @RepMcCaul was absolutely incorrect as characterizing any of these people as hostages. There is nobody being denied exit of the country, or being detained on a plane. Instead the Taliban has not granted clearance for the planes to leave. Spoke to two sources who confirmed.”
He elaborated, saying, “Also the PLANES are being denied clearance, not the PEOPLE. Yes that is a pretty big distinction.”
Among the “planes denied clearance” is a charted jet from Goldbelt, an Alaska Native corporation based in Juneau. Goldbelt has numerous military contracts, which included vetting people for entrance into the former “Green Zone” in Kabul, which was a zone that was safe from terrorism, as people were checked in and out of it. Later, the company was asked to help with evacuating Americans and Afghan allies and charted a jet. The company was not able to provide comment because of what is described as a very dynamic situation in Afghanistan.
At first, the hold up was blamed on having manifests that did not exactly match who was on the planes. Then, the State Department was being blamed for telling allies not to receive the planes.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Doha, Qatar, to negotiate with the Taliban and to thank Qatar for its role in facilitating the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan.
Blinken said Tuesday the Taliban “had been reminded in recent hours that the international community is holding the group to its commitment to let anyone with valid travel papers leave Afghanistan if they choose,” according to the Voice of America.
Blinken said the number of U.S. citizens, including those with dual citizenship, who are thought to be still in Afghanistan is about 100, and he said the State Department is in direct contact with them, according to VoA. He said the State Department is in direct contact with them.
He said the Taliban has “told the world that they intend to allow people to travel freely. The world is determined to see that they make good on that commitment. They told the world that they intend to uphold the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and girls. We’ll be looking very, very carefully at that. They told the world that they do not intend to engage in reprisals. We’ll be looking very, very carefully at that. And it’s not just the United States; it’s more than a hundred countries around the world that have come together and set clear expectations for the way forward.”
“We are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage-like situation at Mazar-i-Sharif. So we have to work through the different requirements and that’s exactly what we are doing,” Blinken told reporters.
The chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniels, was not impressed: “When will Biden admit the Taliban is not offering ‘safe passage’ to Americans trying to leave the country? We’ve had reports of Americans blocked for weeks, but Biden is determined to believe the word of terrorists.”
Must Read Alaska reached out to Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office for comment; staff said that the senator is concerned and is monitoring the situation.