Private evacuation organiser in Afghanistan claims US government ‘is not allowing any private charters carrying refugees to land anywhere’
Rick Clay, the operator of PlanB, a private group organising evacuations out has said the State Department is the only entity stopping his planes from leaving the airport, according to reporting by Fox News.
He outlined that he was desperate to get the required State Department clearance to land in Doha and has 4,500 people waiting; US citizens, visa and green card holders and Afghan refugees. This comes after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban after the US military withdrawal last month, and despite a federal government attempt to get everyone out by the end of August.
Mr Clay alleged the State Department “is not allowing any private charters carrying refugees to land anywhere” in bordering countries, and they are said to be giving varying “excuses” as to why, such as air traffic control and radar problems. Two other unnamed individuals have made similar claims.
One told Fox News, “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****** phone call.”
But Rep. Michael Caufield, who serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, claims that he has received classified reports about hundreds of people awaiting departure from Mazar-i-Sharif airport due to the Taliban holding up the planes and “turning it into a hostage situation”.
“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,” The Texas congressman told Fox News Sunday.
Eric Montalvo, a ex major with the US Marines tasked with helping with the evacuation process told The New York Times: “Taliban are not holding the planes hostage.”
Documents seen by NYT showed US authorities had cleared a total of 1,000 people who had been taken to Qatar via three planes.
“If and when the Taliban agrees to take off, we are tracking that the landing sites will be prepared to accept the expected flights,” read the email from the State Department.
The State Department said they understood the concerns of those waiting to leave Afghanistan, but said the situation was complicated due to not having control in the country anymore.
“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,” a State Department spokesperson said in a a statement, seen by CNN.