Lawmakers sound alarm over Americans stranded in Afghanistan
The State Department is endangering the lives of Americans and others still in Afghanistan, lawmakers and others allege, even as the State Department claims it has accomplished an unprecedented, global evacuation effort.
Military veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) who has called on President Biden to resign over Afghanistan, is calling on Americans to demand that Secretary of State Antony Blinken get stranded Americans out of Afghanistan immediately.
"America: right now there is a private effort to get a plane of US citizens and allies out of Afghanistan," he tweeted. "They need Secretary Blinken to help get clearance to land in a nearby country. Biden's State Department is refusing to actively assist. Their response: ‘just tell them to ask.'"
According to the Associated Press, at least four planes chartered to evacuate several hundred people seeking to leave Afghanistan have been unable to leave for days.
The State Department "is not allowing any private charters carrying refugees [to] land anywhere" in other countries, Rick Clay, who runs private rescue group PlanB, told Fox News. "If we can get aircraft in and pick up people and bring them out, why can't we take them to Doha to the refugee center or other refugee centers? This makes no sense. We still have Americans we can get out."
As of Sunday night, the State Department had not given PlanB approval to take out the first 800, he said.
U.S. citizen Fnu Milat, a former interpreter for the Army, is among many taking to social media asking for help. He tweeted: "My family members are stranded in Afghanistan. I need help to get them out of there."
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who went to Afghanistan with Special Forces last week in his own attempt to rescue stranded Americans, says the efforts were unsuccessful because of the Biden administration.
After reports surfaced that Mullin had gone missing, he posted on Instagram that the rescue mission was continuing even though he had to leave. "Am I extremely disappointed in how we (United States) left Americans behind… that would be an understatement," he said. "President Biden and his administration are absolutely lying to the American people about Americans and our friends being left behind.
"So many great Americans, many who are Veterans and many who are not, are stepping up to keep our promise. ... We will never leave an American behind."
Two combat veterans, Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), went to Kabul on Aug. 24. "We came into this visit wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend the August 31st deadline," they said in a joint statement. "After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, that no matter what we do, we won't get everyone out on time, even by September 11. Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban."
"We're not right now in a position to ask for anything from the Taliban," Meijer said on an Independent American podcast. "That's not to say we couldn't kill a lot of Taliban if we wanted to, we couldn't, you know, return to some type of fighting position — but then you're talking about trying to evacuate thousands of American soldiers from a single runway that can be disabled with one well-placed mortar round."
The lack of U.S. planning he observed on the ground was "staggering," Meijer said.
In April, members of Congress called on the Biden administration to clear the processing backlog to expedite evacuations, creating a bipartisan "Honoring Our Promises" working group. "Over multiple mtgs our pleas were ignored; first evac flights didn't start until late July," Meijer said in a tweet last week.
Biden said in a national address from the White House last week: "Now, some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner and, ‘Couldn't this have ... been done in a more orderly manner?' I respectfully disagree.
"Imagine if we had begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. There still would have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown in confidence and control of the government, and it still would have been a very difficult and dangerous mission.
"The bottom line is: There is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, and threats we faced. None."
The State Department has not responded to calls from the lawmakers. Instead, it released a fact sheet Labor Day touting its successful withdrawal from Afghanistan, omitting the $85 billion worth of weapons and equipment it left behind.
The State Department "mobilized an unprecedented, global effort through our diplomatic channels to evacuate U.S. citizens, personnel from partner nations, and at-risk Afghans from Kabul," the release claims. "In total, the United States and our partners relocated more than 124,000 people to safety, including 6,000 U.S. citizens."
The global network consists of more than 24 countries across four continents, according to the department, with a "total temporary transit capacity of 65,000 people on a rolling basis, including up to 2,000 spaces to accommodate persons that need longer-term processing."
Gulf states have extended capacity to process approximately 37,000 people on a rolling basis, the department reports, with more than 65,000 people having already been processed, "bound for the United States or further processing at European sites."
Temporary transit locations at U.S. military bases or joint bases in Europe have capacity to process at least 28,000 people on a rolling basis, it adds.
Blinken traveled to Qatar Monday to strengthen "diplomatic ties."
Several Republican members of Congress have called on Blinken to resign, others for him to be impeached.