Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) ripped the Biden administration over its “delay and inaction” to facilitate the evacuation of multiple plane-loads of Americans and Afghan allies stranded in Afghanistan.
Multiple charter planes, reportedly containing hundreds of Americans and Afghan allies, ready to depart Afghanistan have remained grounded at an airport in Mazar-i-Sharif for days as the private groups overseeing the extraction attempt to get clearance from Taliban officials. The U.S. State Department appears to have done little to aid the groups attempting the extraction.
The Biden administration’s inaction has raised the ire of at least one Democratic senator, Blumenthal, who ripped into the Biden administration on Monday. Blumenthal sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“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.”
“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,” he continued. “I have been deeply frustrated, even furious, at our government’s delay & inaction. There will be plenty of time to seek accountability for the inexcusable bureaucratic red tape that stranded so many of our Afghan allies.”
“For now, my singular focus remains getting these planes in the air & safely to our airbase in Doha, where they have already been cleared to land,” the senator added. “I expect the White House & State Department to do everything in their power—absolutely everything—to make this happen. These are Americans citizens & Afghans who risked everything for our country. We cannot leave them behind.”
A State Department official reportedly told The Washington Free Beacon that the government has few resources to aid the private groups trying to evacuate hundreds of Americans and Afghan allies from Mazar-i-Sharif.
“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,” the official said. “We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan.”
“Given these constraints, we also do not have a reliable means to confirm the basic details of charter flights, including who may be organizing them, the number of U.S. citizens and other priority groups on-board, the accuracy of the rest of the manifest, and where they plan to land, among many other issues,” the official added.
The Taliban have claimed ignorance when asked about the plight of the grounded flights. “This is not true. Our Mujahideen have nothing to do with ordinary Afghans. This is propaganda and we reject it,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the BBC.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who has been monitoring the evacuation efforts, said that the Taliban are holding the planes hostage and are waiting some form of payment before releasing them.
“They’ve sat at the airport for the last couple of days, these planes, and they’re not allowed to leave,” McCaul said on Fox News on Sunday. “We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange. This is really … 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.”