The number of Americans who still need evacuation from Afghanistan could be as high as 1,000, a Republican lawmaker revealed in contradiction to the administration’s insistence there are only around 100 U.S. citizens left stranded in the country.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also assured that the Taliban had renewed its pledge to allow Americans and Afghan allies to freely depart Afghanistan.
‘They will let people with travel documents freely depart,’ Blinken, during a news conference Tuesday in Doha, Qatar, said the Taliban told the U.S.
He added: ‘We will hold them to that.’
The supposed recommitment comes after reports emerged that six flights chartered to get U.S. citizens out of Afghanistan from the Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport in northern Afghanistan were blocked from leaving by the Taliban.
Blinken also reiterated that there are ‘somewhere around 100’ American citizens still in Afghanistan who want to leave after a previous State Department estimated there were between 100 and 200.
Republican Representative Darrell Issa believes the number of Americans waiting to leave is more around 500 and could be as high as 1,000 – if family members of U.S. citizens are included in that count.
‘Unless we continue and get the rest of our American citizens, and all those otherwise eligible out, we won’t have done our job,’ Issa told the Associated Press over the weekend.
Representative Don Bacon, a Republican and former Air Force officer, also accused the Biden administration of deflating the number of Americans stranded in Afghanistan.
‘The problem is, it doesn’t include families,’ the Nebraska congressman said. ‘They’re lowballing the numbers.’
Republican Representative Darrell Issa (left) and Don Bacon (right) claim the Biden administration is ‘lowballing’ the number of Americans left in Afghanistan. Issa says there are around 500 U.S. citizens stranded and up to 1,000 if their families are included in the tally
Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd-R) said during a press conference in Qatar that the Taliban have ‘renewed’ their vow to allow Americans safe passage out of Afghanistan. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L) with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (R) and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah (2nd-L)
Bacon, who is receiving calls for help in the rescue effort, is demanding Biden give a full account of those left behind.
Many volunteers helping with evacuation efforts also claim that the number is much higher than the 100-200 figure coming from the administration. These individuals say Biden’s team isn’t accounting for family members who may be green card holders and is also only including those who registered with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul before it was shuttered in the midst of the Taliban takeover.
Registering with the Embassy before visiting a foreign country is an entirely voluntary process and does not necessarily reflect the number of Americans there at a certain time.
According to the AP Mike Jason, who runs a rescue operation called Allied Airlift 21, said his group has been in contact with 78 green card holders trapped in the country– but when their spouses and children are added to the tally, the number rises to nearly 400.
The volunteers have identified 45 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan but have documents on more than 250 family members stuck there with them.
Iraq War veteran Alex Plitsas, who is part of an informal rescue network called Digital Dunkirk, said six Americans stuck in Afghanistan called him in the span of one day – none of whom registered with the U.S. Embassy.
He also believes the number of U.S. citizens still in Afghanistan could be in the hundreds rather than just the 100 the administration is touting.
‘Those names are starting to trickle out now,’ Plitsas, a former civilian intelligence officer in Afghanistan, told the AP. ‘I expect that number to rise significantly.’
He also insisted that green card holders need just as much attention as U.S. citizens, claiming he is handling pleas from more than 100 U.S. green card holders trying to evacuate from Afghanistan the last two weeks.
‘They live here. They’re our folks,’ Plitsas said.
Issa’s office is working to evacuate an American couple in their 80s who live in San Diego County and two other families who live in his congressional district in California.
Of the more than 20,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, the administration says 6,000 U.S. citizens made it out mostly on military flights.
Issa said he believes the number of U.S. citizens still there and wanting to leave is near 500. He claims many Americans weren’t counted just because they expressed to the U.S. concerns over ‘leaving behind family members to die.’
This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows satellite imagery of the Mazar-i-Sharif and grounded planes at the airport in northern Afghanistan on September 3. Reports emerged that six planes chartered to evacuate Americans from that airport were blocked by the Taliban from departing
Blinken said Tuesday U.S. officials identified a ‘relatively’ small number of Americans seeking to depart the airport but said the Taliban has not prevented exit for anyone who presents proper documentation
The organizer of a successful operation to evacuate an American family trapped in Afghanistan says the State Department is now trying to take full credit for the daring rescue mission.
Army combat veteran Cory Mills hit out at the government after rescuing the mom, named Mariam, and her three children by bringing them overland through Afghanistan and into the safety of a neighboring country.
Mills helped the Texas family flee after they were left behind in Afghanistan when President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of all US troops on August 31, and is now furious with the State Department’s attempts to claim they masterminded the rescue.
Mariam and her children – who live northwest of Dallas – had gone to visit her parents in Kabul when the Taliban suddenly overtook the city and they became trapped.
The family tried to get out of Afghanistan on an emergency evacuation flight, but a member of the Taliban purportedly pointed a pistol at Mariam’s head as the family arrived at the airport during their fourth attempt to flee, leaving them too frightened to try again.
Mills and his private team subsequently stepped in. They helped get Mariam and her family to a safehouse and organized for them to travel on an overland route to reach the border of a neighboring country and get to safety.
That country has not been named so as not to jeopardize future rescue attempts.
A Texas-based family – consisting of a mom named Mariam and her three children – managed to get out of Afghanistan on Monday with the help of Army combat veteran Cory Mills. The family are pictured with Mill after reaching safety
On Monday, the State Department publicly stated that they helped to ‘facilitate’ the operation.
A spokesperson told Fox News that the Department ‘provided guidance to the family, worked to facilitate their safe passage, and Embassy officials greeted the Americans once they had crossed the border.’
But Mills furiously disputes that claim, telling the news network: ‘This is an attempt to save face by the administration for the Americans they left behind.’
He further raged: ‘This is a woman with three children from age 15 all the way down to two-years-old. And they did nothing to try to expedite this… But at the very last minute you have these ‘senior officials’ at the State Department trying to claim credit for this like ‘oh yeah look what we’ve done”.
‘It’s like we carried the ball to the 99-and-a-half yard line and them taking it that last half yard and being like ‘look what we did’.
Mills further alleges that Mariam reached out to the State Department in distress ‘multiple times and got no help’.
Army combat veteran Cory Mills said the State Department is trying to take credit for his successful rescue mission
Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas revealed Monday that Mariam was one of his own constituents from Texas’s 13th district.
He took to Twitter to celebrate after she successfully evacuated Afghanistan.
Speaking with Fox News he also blasted the State Department.
‘The State Department didn’t do anything for two weeks except put my constituents in danger and leave them stranded,’ he blasted.
‘I know this for a fact because my office has been working around the clock to get our people home with no legitimate support from State. Only after Cory Mills and his team got them into the third country did State offer support by securing tourist visas.
‘Cory and his team are brave patriots. Praise God that American veterans have more resolve than Joe Biden or his State Department.’
Oklahoma conservative Rep. Markwayne Mullin concurred, claiming it was a ‘flat out lie’ that the State Department facilitated the evacuation of Mariam and her family.
Mariam and her family were abandoned in Afghanistan when the US military withdrew from Kabul last week. US officials confirmed they were the first Americans rescued by the government by land since the Taliban took the country
Meanwhile the Biden administration hit a snag in its ‘diplomatic mission’ to rescue other Americans and Afghan allies still stranded after negotiations between the State Department and Taliban officials reportedly broke down over the weekend.
Blinken admitted in Doha on Tuesday that U.S. officials identified a ‘relatively’ small number of Americans seeking to depart Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport.
This was the first time the Biden administration confirmed there were Americans at the northern Afghanistan airport attempting to evacuate but being blocked from leaving by Taliban fighters.
Blinken insisted the Taliban has not prevented exit for anyone who presents proper documentation and claimed he is unaware of any ‘hostage-type’ situation.
Six private charter planes sent to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif to evacuate at least 1,000 people have been grounded 260 miles north of Kabul.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was ‘frustrated, even furious’ at the government’s delay in pulling them out.
‘There will be plenty of time to seek accountability for the inexcusable bureaucratic red tape that stranded so many of our Afghan allies,’ Blumenthal told The Hill. ‘For now, my singular focus remains getting these planes in the air and safely to our airbase in Doha, where they have already been cleared to land.’
Oklahoma conservative Rep. Markwayne Mullin concurred, claiming it was a ‘flat out lie’ that the State Department facilitated the evacuation of Mariam and her family
On Sunday, Reuters reported that the delay had been caused by Biden administration officials not telling Taliban leaders it had approved the departures of the chartered flights from Mazar-i-Sharif.
An exasperated flight organizer hit out at the State Department over the fiasco, saying: ‘They need to be held accountable for putting these people’s lives in danger.’
Other groups trying to organize their own chartered flights have also hit out at the State Department, with Rick Clay from private rescue firm PlanB claiming it’s the only thing stopping him fulfilling his brief.
Two other organizers have also torn into the State Department, with one – who didn’t give their name – telling Fox: ‘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.’
Further details on the reason for the delay in discussions has not been disclosed. although Blinken jetted to Qatar on Sunday to discuss the issue with leaders there.
Blinken rushed to Qatar Sunday amid the unfolding crisis in Mazar-i-Sharif