The Biden State Department refused to give approval to private charter planes seeking to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan, according to a report from Fox News based on a leaked email.
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,” according to Fox News, which obtained the email.
Citing possible security threats to both those on board the airplanes and those on the ground at Department of Defense airbases, the State Department also said that “charter flights, even those containing American citizens, would not be allowed to land at Defense Department (DOD) airbases,” effectively grounding the evacuation mission.
“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 Tuesday.
“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,” the official told Montalvo in the email, adding that the organization would “need to find another destination country, and it can’t be the U.S. either.”
The State Department official went on to say that even if the organization conducting the evacuations were to reach an agreement to land their evacuees in another country, the State Department would not give the go-ahead or “approve” of the charter flight, leaving organizers few options.
There have been conflicting reports about which entity was preventing the six flights from leaving Mazar-i-Sharif (MAZ) airport. On Sunday, the Daily Wire reported that the State Department appeared to be blocking the planes from departing. The State Department said Monday that it did not have intelligence on the ground, giving it an understanding of what was happening at MAZ.
A source close to the situation told the Daily Wire over the weekend that the Taliban were requesting payment in return for allowing the planes to leave, and several news reports labeled the incident a “de facto” hostage situation.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week that the U.S. is cooperating with NGOs and other private organizations to evacuate the remaining Americans left behind when the Biden administration pulled out the U.S. military last week. When asked for comment, the State Department referred Fox News to Blinken’s comments.
“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,” Blinken said.
The NGO operating the flights told media earlier this week, however, that “the State Department is the only thing preventing the flights he’s organizing from leaving Afghanistan.”
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