US citizens are among the estimated 1,000 stuck at an airport in Afghanistan as they wait for their flights to be allowed to leave – sources claim the Taliban are holding them “hostage”
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US citizens are among the estimated 1,000 people currently stuck at an airport in Afghanistan amid claims the Taliban are keeping them “hostage until their demands “are met”.
According to an organiser quoted by Reuters, there are about 1,000 people waiting for their charter flights to take off from the international airport in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
The source, who hasn’t been named due to the sensitivity of the issue, blamed the US State Department over its failure to tell the Taliban of its approval for flight departures from the airport or validate a landing site.
Scenes of chaos in Afghanistan have been ongoing since the Taliban retook control of the country last month as US troops withdrew.
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Harrowing images of crowds clinging onto planes in a desperate bid to be evacuated have made international headlines, while the US has been criticised for failing to evacuate thousands of its Afghan allies.
The Taliban seized control of Kabul on August 15 as US troops controversially left the country, putting an end to America’s 20-year invasion.
Referring to the US State Department, the organiser who spoke to Reuters said: “They need to be held accountable for putting these people’s lives in danger.”
Reuters could not independently verify the details of the account.
US news outlet CBS, meanwhile, echoed reports of multiple planes being stranded at the airport but quoted a senior congressional source saying “the Taliban is basically holding them hostage to get more out of the Americans”.
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Earlier on Sunday, the senior Republican on the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Mike McCaul, told Fox News Sunday that six airplanes were stuck at Mazar-i-Sharif airport with Americans and Afghan interpreters aboard, unable to take off as they had not received Taliban clearance.
He said the Taliban were holding passengers “hostage for demands,” but multiple sources disputed that account, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The group Ascend, a non-profit giving leadership training to women through sport, told CBS News two planes carrying between 600 and 1200 people, including 19 US citizens and two permanent residents, have been waiting to leave for six days.
A US official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, however, challenged the idea that Americans were at risk, saying the US government “has not confirmed any Americans are in Mazar-i-Sharif trying to leave from the airport.”
Asked about charter flights, a State Department spokesperson did not address specific accusations but stressed the US did not have personnel on the ground and so was unable to dig up basic details about the charter flights.
The spokesperson added: “We will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan.”
Republican US representative, Mike Waltz, called on the State Department to work with non-government groups he said were trying to clear charter flights to evacuate Americans and Afghans at risk.
There were manifested charter flights “available, funded, and ready to fly” people out, Waltz told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter, citing remarks of several non-Government organisations.