Are the several Americans left behind who wish to leave Afghanistan embroiled in a hostage situation? A leading Republican lawmaker seems to think so!
Over the long Labor Day Weekend, Rep. Michael McCaul said six airplanes with Americans on board at Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport in northern Afghanistan were unable to take off because they had not received clearance from the Taliban.
McCaul, a Republican from Texas, made the comments during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” and said Afghan interpreters were also on the planes.
“In fact, 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,” McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
“State has cleared these flights, and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport,” he added.
Representatives for the White House have yet to reply directly to McCaul’s claims.
“We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan. However, we do not have personnel on the ground, we do not have air assets in the country, we do not control the airspace — whether over Afghanistan or elsewhere in the region,” a representative for the US State Department told the press in response to the kinds of accusations made by McCaul and others.
That unnamed “State Department Representative” went on to say the department did not have “reliable means to confirm the basic details of charter flights,” including who was chartering them, how many US citizens or other “priority groups” were on board, and when or where these flights would land.
“We will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan,” the person added. “As with all Taliban commitments, we are focused on deeds, not words, but we remind the Taliban that the entire international community is focused on whether they live up to their commitments.”
But McCaul was far less vague in his on-the-record comments, saying, “They are not clearing the airplanes to depart. They’ve sat at the airport for the last couple days — these planes — and they’re not allowed to leave.”
“We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange,” he added. “This is really, Chris, [referring to Fox Host, Chris Wallace] turning into a hostage situation where they’re not going to allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America.”
The US military has completed its two-decade mission in Afghanistan, and the last American troops departed on Aug. 31, though US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said 100 to 200 Americans remain in the country.
“Our commitment to them and to all Americans in Afghanistan — and everywhere in the world — continues,” Blinken said last week.