Speaking at a news conference in Qatar on Tuesday, Blinken said that without personnel on the ground, they “don’t have the means to verify the accuracy of manifests, the identity of passengers onboard these planes, aviation security protocols, or where they plan to land, among other issues. And these raise real concerns.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s communications director disputed the assertion, saying that the Connecticut Democrat’s office had submitted information for passengers on two of those planes that “goes above and beyond what was required for travel out of (Hamid Karzai International Airport) just one day earlier.”
“If what we have submitted is not adequate, then the State Department’s message is that they will not help Afghans to leave the country. That runs counter to the promises that Secretary Blinken and President Biden have made to our allies — to the Afghans who risked everything for our country — and we hope it isn’t true,” Maria McElwain said in a statement Tuesday.
“We are eager to work with the administration to ensure the safe take off of these flights,” she said.
Tensions are growing between the administration and lawmakers and advocacy organizations over the flights in Mazar-i-Sharif which have not been permitted to take off.
Speaking to the press in Doha, Blinken said that the State Department was “working around the clock with NGOs, with members of Congress and advocacy groups, providing any and all information and doing all we can to clear any roadblocks that they’ve identified to make sure that charter flights carrying Americans or others to whom we have a special responsibility can depart Afghanistan safely.”
He also rebutted GOP claims that the Taliban is holding Americans “hostage,” and said that the Taliban had assured the US that all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave an airport in northern Afghanistan.
Blinken spoke after Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Sunday that he has received classified briefings that “hundreds” of American citizens and Afghan allies are stuck at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport in Afghanistan.
The Taliban “are not clearing the airplanes to depart,” McCaul told Fox News, saying that “this is … turning into a hostage situation where they’re not going to allow American citizens leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America.”
Blinken explained that an issue had come up at the airport with people who…