Biden administration Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to claims that dozens of Americans and perhaps hundreds of Afghan allies are being held by the Taliban at Mazar-i-Sharif Airport (MAZ), unable to board privately chartered planes out of the country, telling a press conference in Doha, Qatar, that he is “not aware” of any “hostage-like situation,” only a “relatively small number of Americans” who should be allowed to leave Afghanistan.
“We are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage-like situation in Mazar-i-Sharif,” Blinken said when asked about the six planes on the ground at MAZ, reportedly unable to leave.
At the time Blinken was touring a facility in Doha that is housing hundreds of Afghan refugees en route to other countries.
Blinken went on to say that he has been “assured” that anyone with “valid” paperwork is being allowed to leave, seemingly suggesting that those being held on the ground at MAZ may be in a situation of their own making. He also noted that the Taliban is assisting in allowing evacuations.
“We’ve been able to identify a relatively small number of Americans who we believe are seeking to depart from Mazar-i-Sharif with their families. We have been assured, again, that all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave,” Blinken said.
“And again, we intend to hold the Taliban to that,” he added.
The State Department is under fire, though, Tuesday, after allegedly “stealing credit” for assisting in the rescue of four Americans — a mother and three children — stranded in Afghanistan. The State Department announced Monday that it had helped facilitate the overland departure of “four U.S. citizens” but, as The Daily Wire reported, “those actually involved in the dangerous rescue operation say the State Department deserves little to no credit for Mariam’s escape from Afghanistan.”
“Cory Mills and a private team of military veterans, drawing on funding by private donors including the Sentinel Foundation, led the effort to rescue Mariam and her three children from Afghanistan, where they had been left behind by the Biden administration, multiple sources with knowledge of Mariam’s evacuation” the Daily Wire noted, quoting Fox News.
The State Department also told reporters on Monday that it had no “resources” available to verify details of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.
“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,” an official told the Washington Free Beacon. “We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan.”
A source close to the situation told the Daily Wire that the State Department is aware of the situation on the ground at MAZ, and that there is “little coordination between” the State Department and those responsible for trying to evacuate the Americans and Afghan allies trapped at MAZ. The same source suggested that the Taliban is looking for “massive amounts of money” — in the “tens of millions” — in order to allow potential evacuees to depart, creating a de-facto hostage situation.