Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said on this week’s broadcast of “Fox News Sunday” that the Taliban were holding American citizens and Afghan allies “hostage.”
Partial transcript as follows:
CHRIS WALLACE: On Friday, Secretary of State Blinken, under questioning from reporters, refused to say how many Americans, how many Afghan allies have gotten out of that country since the U.S. pulled all our forces out on Monday.
As the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, do you know the answer to that?
MCCAUL: You know, I’ve been given the answer in the classified space but it’s in the hundreds. We have hundreds of American citizens left behind enemy lines in Afghanistan as I speak. And also, very sadly, the interpreters who worked with our special forces, almost all of them were left behind and were not let in the gates at the airport at HKI to get out.
And that was a promise that the president made. I’ve said all along, this resident has blood on his hands. And, this week, this last week, we had 13 service men and women come home, flag draped coffins at Dover Airbase.
This problem’s going to get worse, not better, and it’s — we have left them behind. That’s the basic creed of the military.
WALLACE: Sir, I asked a slightly different question though than the — than the one you answered. Not how many are still left. Do you know how many of those Americans and how many of those Afghan allies have gotten out of the country since we pulled out on Monday?
MCCAUL: Right. So the — the Americans themselves, probably around the 5,000 range. And the visa card holders, the other —
WALLACE: No, no, no, sir, sir, wait, wait. No, what I’m asking is, since we left the country on Friday, how many Americans have gotten out of Afghanistan? Since we pulled out, how many Afghan allies have gotten out since the Taliban was in complete control of the country?
MCCAUL: I understand. Zero. And, in fact, we have six airplanes at Mazar 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. They — we — the state has cleared these flights and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport. So, I’m sorry, the answer to your question is zero. And that’s my concern is they’re going to demand more and more, whether it be cash or legitimacy as the government of Afghanistan.
WALLACE: Let me pick up on this because I didn’t know this. You’re saying that there are Americans on airplanes ready to fly out of Afghanistan right now and they’re not being allowed out because Taliban is making demands? What demands are the Taliban making?
MCCAUL: Well, they are not — they are not clearing the airplanes to depart. They’ve sat at the airport for the last couple of days, these planes, and they’re not allowed to leave. We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange. This is really, Chris, 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.
My concern is that Zalmay Khalilzad or special envoy who’s met with the Taliban, they’re in talks right now and I think — I — I worry his recommendation to the administration will be to recognize the Taliban as the official government of the United States, a Taliban organization that is a terrorist organization.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN