(USA Features) The State Department would not grant approval to private charter planes trying to evacuate Americans stranded in Afghanistan after President Joe Biden vowed to get them all out, according to a report Tuesday.
Fox News reported, based on a leaked email, that the State Department refused “to grant official approval for private evacuation flights from Afghanistan to land in third countries, even though the department conceded that official authorization would likely be needed for planes to land in those nations.”
Referencing potential security threats to those on board the aircraft as well as people on the ground at U.S. military bases, the State Department went on to say that “charter flights, even those containing American citizens, would not be allowed to land at Defense Department (DOD) airbases,” which led to effectively grounding the rescue missions.
“Eric Montalvo, who organized a series of private flights evacuating those stranded in Afghanistan, shared that email and others with Fox News after his evacuation efforts were repeatedly hampered by the federal bureaucracy,” Fox News reported.
“No independent charters are allowed to land at [Al Udeid Air Base], the military airbase you mentioned in your communication with Samantha Power. In fact, no charters are allowed to land at an [sic] DoD base and most if not all countries in the Middle Eastern region, with the exception of perhaps Saudi Arabia will allow charters to land,” an official told Montalvo in the email.
The official went on to add that the organization would “need to find another destination country, and it can’t be the U.S. either.”
The State Department official noted further that even if the group attempting to rescue Americans reached an agreement to land them and other evacuees in another country, the department will still not “approve” the charter flight, which left organizers with few-to-no options.
There have been conflicting reports this week regarding flights that have been organized by private rescue groups as to why they have been unable to depart Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, as USA Features News reported, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told “Fox News Sunday” that the State Department had approved a half-dozen rescue flights waiting to depart from an airport in Mazar-i-Sharif, but the ruling Taliban refused to allow the planes to leave.
“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 lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.
“State has cleared these flights, and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport,” he continued.
Host Chris Wallace pressed the Republican lawmaker, leading McCaul to say that the development is “turning into a hostage situation.”
“Well, they are not clearing airplanes to depart. They’ve sat at the airport for the last couple days, these planes, and they’re not allowed to leave,” McCaul added.
“We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange,” he continued.
“This is really, Chris, turning into a hostage situation where they’re not gonna allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America,” he said.
But on Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal voiced anger and frustration at the Biden administration for not doing enough to clear private evacuation flights attempting to leave Afghanistan, USA Features News reported.
“My staff & I have worked night & day to secure the safe passage of two planes waiting in Mazar-e Sharif to take American citizens, at-risk Afghan allies, & their families to safety,” Blumenthal said.
“My office joined forces in this humanitarian mission with an incredible coalition of advocates—NGOs, former servicemembers, & journalists—to try & evacuate our fellow citizens & Afghan allies,” he continued. “I haven’t yet spoken publicly about these efforts because we worried that heightened attention would only escalate tensions & put these people at even greater risk of being targeted.”
“I have been deeply frustrated, even furious, at our government’s delay & inaction,” he added.
“There will be plenty of time to seek accountability for the inexcusable bureaucratic red tape that stranded so many of our Afghan allies,” Blumenthal noted.
“I expect the White House & State Department to do everything in their power—absolutely everything—to make this happen. These are American citizens & Afghans who risked everything for our country. We cannot leave them behind,” the Connecticut Democrat said.
State Department officials have also said they are working to get flights cleared to depart the country.
“We’re working around the clock with NGOs, with members of Congress and advocacy groups, providing any and all information and doing all we can to clear any roadblocks that they’ve identified to make sure that charter flights carrying Americans or others to whom we have a special responsibility can depart Afghanistan safely,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week.