US State Dept Accused of Blocking Private Afghan Evacuations: 'It's Not The Taliban Holding This Up'
US President Joe Biden said on 31 August, when announcing the end of the nearly-20-year American military presence in Afghanistan, that the United States was committed to get out “any American, Afghan partner, or foreign national who wants to leave” the country.
The US State Department is being accused of blocking private flights evacuating American citizens and allies from Afghanistan, with individuals involved in the mission raging that it is not the Taliban* to blame for the delay but the US government.
Rick Clay, an American who runs the private rescue organisation PlanB, complained to Fox News that as of last week, there were some 4,500 American citizens, SIVs and green card holders, as well as refugees, trying to get out of Afghanistan.
Military command at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, where the refugee centers are, said that the State Department must first give approval to anyone seeking clearance to land in Qatar.
The PlanB group founder said last week that they had given the State Department a list of 800 individuals eligible for a first round of evacuation flights but had problems “getting permission” from the US government.
He said that the State Department "is not allowing any private charters carrying refugees [to] land anywhere” in countries neighbouring Afghanistan, while coming up with different “excuses” why there had been delays: including claims like there were radar issues or a lack of air traffic controllers.
"If we can get aircraft in and pick up people and bring them out, why can’t we take them to Doha to the refugee centre or other refugee centres?" Clay told Fox News. "This makes no sense. We still have Americans we can get out.”
His account was confirmed by two other unnamed American individuals involved in the rescue mission, with one person telling Fox News that the State Department’s reluctance was probably motivated at least in part by “embarrassment” that the evacuation job had been left to private citizens.
"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,” the individual lashed out. “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."
Taliban Reportedly Blocks At Least Four Planes With Refugees, Americans From Departing Afghanistan
5 September 2021, 21:44 GMT
As of Sunday, PlanB reportedly still hadn’t received permission from the State Department to land their flights in any country near Afghanistan, despite getting a message on Thursday confirming that the mission would get approval to take the named 800 people out after the vetting process is completed.
Two other Americans involved in the rescue mission told Fox News that they had received clearance from the State Department to land in a neighbouring country but not a green light to take off, which the Taliban had given already - dependent on the US government’s okay.
Biden Hails Evacuation ‘Success’
US President Joe Biden said on 31 August, following the end of the 20-year-long US war in Afghanistan, that there were still around “100 to 200 Americans” remaining in the country “with some intention to leave”.
“And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline,” the president went on. “We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out. Secretary of State Blinken is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure a safe passage for any American, Afghan partner, or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan.”
© REUTERS / CARLOS BARRIAU.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan during a speech in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 31, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan during a speech in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 31, 2021.
© REUTERS / CARLOS BARRIA
Biden described the evacuation mission as an “extraordinary success”, but many, including Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who was helping out PlanB with the private rescue operation, didn’t share his enthusiasm.
It was "hard to believe that the US government would deny American citizens and Afghan allies who helped save American lives the ability to evacuate Afghanistan,” Johnson told Fox News in a statement.
"However, what we've been hearing from people actually involved in the evacuation is completely different from the administration's rosy spin," the senator added. "When I hear President Biden declare this debacle an ‘extraordinary success’ it not only shows he’s detached from reality, it also calls into question everything this administration is telling the American people."
*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and a number of other countries.