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Secretary of State Blinken dismisses report of 'hostage-like situation' in Afghanistan

Rep. Michael McCaul said on Sunday that Americans trying to evacuate Afghanistan are being held hostage by the Taliban.

Updated: September 7, 2021 - 8:08pm

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that he is not aware of a hostage situation in Afghanistan with Americans being prevented from leaving, a position that contradicts a report from Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) earlier this week.

"We are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage-like situation in Mazar-i-Sharif," Blinken said at a joint news conference in Doha with with Qatar's top diplomats and defense officials, The Hill reported.

He did add that the U.S. is aware of a "relatively small number" of Americans trying to leave the country from the airport, and that the Taliban "assured" the Biden administration that Americans and Afghans with valid travel documents would be allowed to leave the country.

"We've been able to identify a relatively small number of Americans who we believe are seeking to depart from Mazar-i-Sharif with their families. We have been assured, again, that all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave. And again, we intend to hold the Taliban to that," the Secretary of State said.

Blinken noted that the Taliban had upheld their "commitment" at least once in the last 24 hours, when a family was allowed to leave Afghanistan via an overland route.

McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Sunday that "six airplanes, with American citizens on them" are being held "hostage for demands right now" by the Taliban.

"[The Department of] State has cleared these flights and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport," McCaul told Fox News Sunday. "The Taliban wants something in exchange, this is really … turning into a hostage situation where they are not going to allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America."

Following the report, the State Department told The Hill on Sunday that because it doesn't have any ground personnel, air assets, or control over the airspace in the region, it didn't 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."

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