Report: Biden State Department Blocking Private Flights from Departing Afghanistan

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Posted: Sep 08, 2021 12:45 PM
Report: Biden State Department Blocking Private Flights from Departing Afghanistan

Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

A follow-up to this morning's post, featuring a few noteworthy developments. The "non-hostage" hostage situation is still unfolding, with planes grounded and Americans stranded. Some are reportedly getting desperate and begging for help. Perhaps pleas from Americans will carry more weight with this administration than the pleas of an Afghan interpreter who personally helped rescue then-Senator Joe Biden years ago, and to whom the president made, then discarded, a life-and-death promise. This update comes via a Republican congressman and veteran who visited Kabul amid the shambolic evacuation: 

American veterans groups and others are pleading for U.S. and Taliban action on a weeklong standoff that has left hundreds of would-be evacuees from Afghanistan desperate to board waiting charter flights out of a northern Afghan airport. These groups say several dozen Americans, along with a much larger number of U.S. green card holders and family members, are among those waiting to board pre-arranged charter flights at the airport in Mazar-e-Sharif that are being prevented from leaving...“We think we are in some kind of jail,” said one Afghan woman among the would-be evacuees gathered in Mazar-e-Sharif. She said elderly American citizens — parents of Afghan-Americans in the U.S. — are among those being blocked from boarding evacuation planes. The woman, an employee of a U.S.-based nonprofit, Ascend, that works with Afghan women and girls, spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity for her security. She said those in her group have proper passports and visas, but that the Taliban currently are blocking them from entering the airport. 

We speculated on a few reasons why the Taliban might be playing this dangerous game: Leverage for money, leverage for desired outcomes, prioritizing weeding out and punishing "collaborators" within the group, etc. Regardless of how this confrontation gets resolved – hopefully soon, peacefully, and successfully – it would seem as though the Taliban wants to send a message that they are fully in charge, and future evacuation efforts will not occur on America's terms. But what to make of this report from Fox News? Is there a bureaucratic snag on the Biden administration's end of this? 

The State Department refused to grant official approval for private evacuation flights from Afghanistan to land in third countries, even though the department conceded that official authorization would likely be needed for planes to land in those nations, an email reviewed by Fox News shows. Furthermore, the State Department explicitly stated that charter flights, even those containing American citizens, would not be allowed to land at Defense Department (DOD) airbases. U.S. officials have pointed to possible security threats from landing charter planes at military bases, saying that they lack the resources on the ground to fully verify flight manifests. The Biden administration's delaying of private evacuation efforts has been a widespread source of frustration, infuriating rescue organizers and even a prominent Democratic senator. Eric Montalvo, who organized a series of private flights evacuating those stranded in Afghanistan, shared that email and others with Fox News after his evacuation efforts were repeatedly hampered by the federal bureaucracy.

"You need to find another destination country, and it can't be the U.S. either," a State Department official wrote one of the leaders spearheading evacuation efforts. No wonder these folks are livid when State tries to claim credit for third-party exfiltrations. The Fox story links to another piece about Democratic US Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who lied for most of his adult life about serving in Vietnam, who says he's "furious" over these delays. The red tape is real and so excruciating and stifling that elected Democrats are venting anger and frustration over the bogged-down status quo. There's also this paragraph in the article, quoting the Secretary of State not only denying the existence of an effective hostage situation at Mazar-i-Sharif but more or less repeating Taliban talking points in doing so (see update below): 

A State Department spokesperson declined to answer Fox News' questions for this story, referring instead to remarks that Secretary of State Antony Blinken made on Tuesday.  "We’re 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," Blinken said.  "Without personnel on the ground, we can’t verify the accuracy of manifests, the identities of passengers, flight plans, or aviation security protocols. So this is a challenge, but one we are determined to work through. We’re conducting a great deal of diplomacy on this as we speak."  Blinken also denied that the Taliban was seeking to block passport-holding Americans from leaving Afghanistan. "And it's my understanding is that the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document, but they have said those without valid documents, at this point, can’t leave," he said.

Get our people out, do everything we can to green-light their safe evacuation to another country, then sort out the logistics elsewhere. How is that course of action not obvious? I'm sure there are complications and risks. Do it anyway. It increasingly looks like these Americans and allies are stuck in purgatory – with American bureaucracy snarling their departure on one end, atop a Taliban power play. Notice the circular reasoning underpinning Blinken's excuse: We can't process the paperwork without personnel on the ground, but we chose to pull all personnel from the ground, even before all Americans were out. Astounding and maddening. I'll leave you with this new wrinkle from our "peace partners," or whatever, in the Taliban: 


Bergdahl, I'll remind you, was a deserter whose desertion allegedly cost American lives. In any case, it's a terrorist regime, filled with dangerous, high-value Islamist terrorists whom the US detained or sought to detain. And the Biden administration's strategy is to rely on them to live up to "expectations" based on "assurances" – which the Mazar-i-Sharif mess is already exposing as, shall we say, flawed.

UPDATE - On day eight of this standoff, the US Secretary of State finally appears to be admitting what's happening. Now what?

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