Team Biden: Let's Not Call the Taliban's Quasi-Hostages in Afghanistan 'Hostages,' Okay?

Posted: Sep 08, 2021 10:05 AM
Team Biden: Let's Not Call the Taliban's Quasi-Hostages in Afghanistan 'Hostages,' Okay?

Source: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

President Biden's secretary of state says he doesn't see a hostage situation in Mazar-i-Sharif, where would-be planeloads of Americans and various friendlies eager to leave Afghanistan are apparently being denied clearance for takeoff. The Biden administration simply cannot afford the debacle of US hostages being held by the Taliban, given the disaster over which they've already presided – including the shattered promise of getting all Americans and allies out of the country. Team Biden went from scolding reporters about using the word "stranded," to arguing that Americans get stranded all the time, virtually overnight. Remember, the president pledged on national television just a few short weeks ago that he'd keep troops on the ground until all Americans were out. Then he pulled the last US troops out, ahead of schedule, with thousands of US citizens and permanent residents still stuck (read: stranded) on the ground – to say nothing of the tens of thousands of allies to whom he'd made the same vow. That shocking betrayal, borne of horrific incompetence, is bad enough, especially with bloody reprisals well underway

If Biden's betrayal is compounded not only by grisly Afghan deaths at the hands of the Taliban, but also by Americans effectively held hostage, the catastrophe will become even more grave. Thus, Anthony Blinken won't even come close to using the H-word to describe what's happening here. This was from Monday

The State Department says there is little it can do to help Americans and at-risk Afghans whose planes are reportedly grounded at an airport as the Taliban prevents them from leaving the country. At least six chartered planes are attempting to evacuate these Americans and others from Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport, but the Taliban is reportedly preventing them from taking off. Since it evacuated U.S. military forces and diplomatic personnel from the war-torn country, the Biden administration has not had the resources necessary to ensure that flights chartered by nonprofit groups and others can depart Afghanistan..."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," a State Department spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon. "We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan." ... Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who has received classified briefings on the matter, told Fox News on Sunday morning that there are hundreds of American still trapped in Afghanistan and that the "Taliban want something in exchange" for letting these people leave. McCaul has been tracking the situation and says the State Department cleared these flights to leave, but that the Taliban is responsible for stopping them.

And here's Blinken talking very carefully about the situation yesterday: 

The Taliban claims they'll allow properly-documented personnel leave, but as Allahpundit points out, that's not a helpful assurance: 

Since we’re relying on the Taliban’s judgment on whether someone’s papers are “valid” or not, it’d be child’s play for the new regime to scrutinize and ultimately deny departure to any passenger whom they have reason to believe worked with the U.S. military. Which is probably what this week-long delay in Mazar-i-Sharif is really about, right? The Taliban is probably checking to see which passengers collaborated with the U.S., fought for the Afghan army, or served in the now defunct government. They have plans for people like that. Because the two sides are still negotiating, and because it’d be a new political disaster for Biden if they called this what it was, State and its allies are bending over backward to say that this isn’t a hostage situation.

If there are Americans cleared to leave, but they're being blocked from leaving for various reasons – "logistical" or otherwise – that's getting awfully close to a full-blown hostage situation. AP is probably correct that the Taliban is more likely to drag collaborators off the planes (should they be permitted to board) than Americans (the Biden administration seems to be taking pains to ignore thousands of permanent legal US residents when they discuss Americans abandoned in Afghanistan, presumably to make the overall number look less terrible than it already does), but the delay could also be about leverage and demands.  Perhaps the financially-strapped Taliban wants cold, hard cash in exchange for the planes taking off. Perhaps they also want formal US recognition for their new interim government, which entails such characters as this notorious terrorist

The FBI-wanted Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network, a US-designated terror group, has been named acting interior minister, the Taliban said Tuesday in announcing its interim government. The State Department is offering a $5 million reward for information directly leading to his arrest. "Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed six people, including an American citizen," the FBI states. "He is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Haqqani also allegedly was involved in the planning of the assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008."

Whether the Taliban is holding out for money, recognition, other incentives, or to detain and execute "collaborators," the fact is that some number of Americans have been languishing for days, unable to leave Afghanistan specifically due to the Taliban's decisions. Biden and Blinken may not want to call that a hostage crisis, but what should it be called? And what does this episode foretell about potential similar stand-offs in the future? The White House keeps insisting that they expect the Taliban to live up to expectations and "assurances." How are they feeling about those talking points now, a week into the Mazar-i-Sharif mess?  Meanwhile, senior administration officials have been slippery and cagey in response to questions about how many stranded Americans have gotten out of Afghanistan since Biden broke his promise and ordered our forces to fully withdraw. But they apparently have tried to falsely steal credit for saving some of the Americans they stranded: 

The organizer of a private mission to rescue an American mom, Mariam, and her three children from Afghanistan says the U.S. State Department is now trying to insert itself into the story of her evacuation, despite playing little to no role for much of the rescue effort. Senior State Department officials on Monday announced that the "U.S. has facilitated the safe departure of four US citizens by overland route from Afghanistan. Embassy staff was present upon their arrival." But those actually involved in the dangerous rescue operation say the State Department deserves little to no credit for Mariam's escape from Afghanistan. Cory Mills and a private team of military veterans, drawing on funding by private donors including the Sentinel Foundation, led the effort to rescue Mariam and her three children from Afghanistan, where they had been left behind by the Biden administration, multiple sources with knowledge of Mariam's evacuation confirmed to Fox News...The State Department's public posture about Mariam's rescue is "absolute nonsense," Mills told Fox News in an exclusive interview Monday. "The fact that they're spinning this, trying to take 100% credit when they didn't track this family, when they placated this family, when the mother, who was under extreme stress and extreme pressure, reached out to the State Department multiple times and got no help."

Classy stuff, and very on-brand, given how the Biden crew has handled every element of this fiasco. Some Americans don't seem interested in letting the Commander-in-Chief forget it, either, even if the media starts to lose interest: 

"He will leave you behind...My best friend died in 2011 in Afghanistan, for what?" I'll leave you with this

The survey — conducted by Remington Research Group — showed the president underwater by an average of 7 percentage points on the economy and 9 percent on foreign policy in [seven Democrat-held swing districts] polled, which include California’s 10th Congressional District, Florida’s 7th Congressional District, Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, Michigan’s 8th and 11th Congressional Districts, Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District and Washington’s 8th Congressional District.  The surveys found that Biden and the Democrats’ plan to move forward with a $3.5 trillion social spending could prove to be a liability for the party’s members that serve in the battleground districts, with an average of just 36 percent approving on average to the 55 percent that said they disapprove of the proposal...just 35 percent of respondents said they believed the spending is necessary while 55 percent said they feel it is unnecessary...the poll found that Democratic representatives are also trailing behind generic Republican challengers by an average of 6 percent.

That nugget about the Democrat-only spending orgy is likely not what Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer want to see, as some moderates were already balking about the massive price tag, infuriating leftists (here's Sen. Manchin's latest red line). Schumer is probably plotting his next move, since he's obviously not paying much attention to Afghanistan: 

Thousands of American citizens and residents were lied to and abandoned by President Biden – and have apparently been forgotten by the Senate Majority Leader. 

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