Report: American Rescuers Say State Dept. Only Obstacle to Private Flights Leaving Afghanistan, ‘Not the Taliban’

President-elect Joe Biden listens as his Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken speaks at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Americans involved in the private evacuation of U.S. citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies left stranded in Afghanistan by the Biden administration reportedly blame baffling delays from the U.S. State Department for preventing rescue flights from leaving the country.

Meanwhile, the State Department reportedly asserted that it is the Taliban jihadis who refuse to give several charter flights carrying American citizens and green card holders permission to leave.

On Sunday, Fox News reported that it spoke to three individuals involved in the private evacuation efforts who blame the State Department for blocking rescue flights from leaving Afghanistan, including two who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing the rescue operations.

One of the anonymous sources reportedly suggested the State Department’s obstruction is fueled in part by “embarrassment that private individuals are rescuing Americans whom the U.S. government left behind.”

A U.S. soldier holds a sign indicating a gate is closed as hundreds of people gather some holding documents, near an evacuation control checkpoint on the perimeter of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. Western nations warned Thursday of a possible attack on Kabul’s airport, where thousands have flocked as they try to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the waning days of a massive airlift. Britain said an attack could come within hours. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

A U.S. soldier holds a sign indicating a gate is closed as hundreds of people gather some holding documents, near an evacuation control checkpoint on the perimeter of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. Western nations warned Thursday of a possible attack on Kabul’s airport, where thousands have flocked as they try to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the waning days of a massive airlift. Britain said an attack could come within hours. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

All three indicated “the State Department’s delays are recklessly endangering American lives,” Fox News pointed out.

Echoing the two anonymous sources, Rick Clay, who runs the private rescue group PlanB, declared that the State Department is the only obstacle preventing the evacuation flights he is organizing from leaving Afghanistan.

According to Fox News, one of their unnamed sources said:

This is zero place to be negotiating with American lives. Those are our people standing on the tarmac, and all it takes is a f—ing phone call. … If one life is lost as a result of this, the blood is on the White House’s hands. The blood is on their hands. … It is not the Taliban that is holding this up – as much as it sickens me to say that – it is the United States government.

Last Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki and State Department spokesman Ned Price denied that the Biden administration blocked any private rescue flights from leaving Afghanistan.

On Sunday, CBS News reported seeing excerpts of an email from the State Department to members of congress that asserted the Taliban was not allowing charter flights to take off from the Mazar-i-Sharif airstrip in northern Afghanistan.

“It is a Taliban decision to ground flights in Mazar-i-Sharif,” the email declared. “We are, however, providing guidance and assistance to the extent possible — and with an emphasis on safety— to private entities working out of Mazar.”

“The Taliban is basically holding them hostage to get more out of the Americans,” an unnamed senior congressional source told CBS News.

In a statement to CBS News suggesting the Taliban is to blame for keeping private evacuation planes on the ground, the State Department acknowledged:

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.

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.

Nevertheless, the department vowed to “hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan,” adding that “the entire international community is focused on whether they live up to their commitments.”

Taliban fighters stand guard bya black market currency exchange at Sarai Shahzada market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

Taliban fighters stand guard bya black market currency exchange at Sarai Shahzada market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

Last Thursday, the State Department informed Clay’s rescue group their flights out of Afghanistan “would eventually receive approval … following the review of their manifest.”

The task could take several days, Fox News noted, adding:

Clay has a manifest of 4,500 names of U.S. citizens, green card holders, SIVs [Special Immigrant Visas], and refugees trying to get stateside. So far, they’ve given the State Department 800 names for the first round of flights.

President Joe Biden capitulated to the Taliban’s demand that all U.S. troops had to leave Afghanistan by August 31, including the 5,000 deployed to help evacuate Americans and Afghan allies.

On August 15, the Taliban entered Kabul, marking the end of an aggressive campaign to regain control of Afghanistan as the U.S. military was leaving the country.

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with his Cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. From left, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with his Cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. From left, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Late last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted the Biden administration does not know how many Americans remain in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, in his first speech after the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, President Biden claimed that between 100 and 200 remained stranded in Afghanistan.

However, the Associated Press (AP) reported Sunday that the number of Americans trapped in Afghanistan is closer to 500.

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