Senior Democrat spokesman disputes Blinken’s comments about flights into Afghanistan

Speaking at a news conference in Qatar on Tuesday, Blinken said that without personnel on the ground, they have no access to “verify the accuracy of the manifests, the identification of passengers on these aircraft, aviation safety protocols, or where they plan.” Don’t have the means to do it. Getting off the ground, along with other issues. And these create real concerns.”

Richard Blumenthal’s communications director disputed the claim, saying the Connecticut Democrat’s office had submitted information for passengers on two planes that were “above what was required for travel from[Hamid Karzai International Airport]the day before.” and go beyond that.”

“If what we have presented is not enough, the message from the State Department is that they will not help Afghans leave the country. This is contrary to the promises that Secretary Blinken and President Biden have made to our allies – Afghans. For who risked everything for our country – and we hope that is not true,” Maria McElvain said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We look forward to working with the administration to ensure the safe flight of these flights,” she said.

Tensions are rising between the administration and lawmakers and advocacy organizations over flights that have not been allowed to fly at Mazar-e-Sharif.

Speaking to the press in Doha, Blinken said the State Department was “working round the clock with non-governmental organizations, with members of Congress and advocacy groups, providing any and all information and all those obstacles.” We were doing everything they identified to make sure that charter flights carrying Americans or others for which we have a special responsibility can depart Afghanistan safely.”

He also denied the GOP’s claims that the Taliban were taking Americans “hostage”, and said the Taliban had assured the US that all US citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents would be taken out of an airport in northern Afghanistan. will be allowed to leave.

Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Republican Representative Michael McCaul on Sunday that he had received a confidential briefing that “hundreds” of US citizens and Afghan allies are trapped at Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif airport.

McCall told Fox News, the Taliban are “not giving the plane permission to go,” adding that “it … Will not allow you to leave until you are of America.”

‘not aware’

Blinken told reporters in Doha that he had never heard of anything like that. “We are not aware whether anyone has been kept on board the Mazar-e-Sharif or if there is any hostage-like situation,” he said. The top US diplomat said he wanted to keep the Taliban on his promise to drop flights from the airport in Mazar-i-Sharif. “They have maintained that commitment in at least one instance in the last 24 hours. a family that was able to leave Through an underground passage,” he said.

Blinken reported that there had been an issue at the airport with people who did not have valid documents.

“There are groups of people who have been put together. Some of them don’t have the appropriate travel documents and US passports, green cards, visas and others,” Blinken said. “And it is my understanding that the Taliban have not denied access to anyone who has valid documents, but they have said that without valid documents, at this point they cannot go.”

The State Department told Congress on Saturday that charter flights at Mazar-i-Sharif were suspended, but were allowed to land in Doha. The message said that it was the decision of the Taliban to stop the flights.

Blumenthal’s communications director said his office is “working closely with a small group of NGOs, veterans, advocates and journalists to secure a safe passage for two of these aircraft.”

“I can only speak for our two planes, but we made our flights available to the State Department as early as August 30 and late yesterday,” McElwain said in a statement Tuesday. “The information we have provided to the State Department is above and beyond what is generally required for travel in Afghanistan.”

“While some of our passengers are young children who do not yet have the full suite of documents an adult has, in those cases we provide shot records and offer to help verify their identity in some other way. The State Department has this information for 8 days. On Friday, September 3, the State Department formally stated that they had no objection to our planes landing in Doha, which would allow third-party governments to land the plane. needs to be allowed,” she said. .

“The State Department obviously cannot verify passengers on the ground because the US government has withdrawn its consular presence. The State Department is also not allowing the airline to verify passengers as it had a previous policy. As a result, It seems they are indicating that the Taliban should be in a position to confirm the passengers flying on these planes. The reality is that we have extremely vulnerable Afghans on these flights and this obviously seems problematic if The State Department expects the Taliban to personally verify our passengers,” she noted.

In a blistering statement on Monday, Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was “very disappointed, even furious, at the delay and inaction of our government.”

“There will be plenty of time for many of our Afghan allies to take accountability for the unforgivable bureaucratic red tape that has been trapped. For now, my only focus is to get these planes in the air and safely to our airbase in Doha, where they already are. are cleared to land. I hope the White House and the State Department will do everything in their power – absolutely everything – to make it happen. These are American citizens and Afghans who risk everything for our country We can’t leave them behind,” she said.

Marina Legree, whose organization is trying to get 34 at-risk women out of Afghanistan on those flights, told CNN on Tuesday that the planes were still on the ground.

He told CNN that the Taliban said people with visas would be allowed to leave, but those without visas would not be able to leave Afghanistan.

Legree, who runs a nonprofit called Ascend, said the women in her group don’t have visas, and it wasn’t an issue when the US government was revealing the flights. Legree told CNN she was disappointed by Blinken’s comments and felt as though the State Department was handing them over to the Taliban.

CNN reported on 17 August that US personnel at the embassy in Kabul Passports of some Afghans destroyed While they were getting rid of all sensitive material in preparation for a full evacuation, according to a message the office of Representative Andy Kim was sharing with people seeking help with the evacuation from Afghanistan.

It is unclear why the passports were destroyed, but it is possible that diplomats determined that it would have been dangerous for the documents to fall into the hands of Taliban militants who could then target those Afghans. But being without a passport creates major complications for Afghans, who are still desperately and urgently trying to get out of the country.

Blinken’s visit to Qatar, where he arrived on Monday and joined Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday, is part of a larger “thank you” tour that will include Germany. The two countries were crucial to the US effort to carry out the largest airlift in US military history, evacuating about 125,000 people out of Kabul, and the two countries are hosting intense diplomacy about Afghanistan.

Qatar has become the center of diplomatic efforts, with the country mediating between the US, its allies and the Taliban. In Germany, Blinken will co-host a ministerial meeting on Afghanistan as the US and allies work to establish a unified position on Afghanistan and his attitude towards the Taliban as reported by the group’s violent crackdown on protesters and With women deepens fears about their treatment. .

The ministerial agenda will almost certainly include a review of the Taliban’s interim government, which gives veterans of the Taliban movement and their allies in the Haqqani network, which the US designated a foreign terrorist network for deadly attacks on the US. has done. Coalition military and civilian personnel and its relationship with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

government official with a bounty on his head

NS interim government line-up The announcement was made by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid at a news conference in Kabul which also includes members of the Haqqani network who have been personally designated by the US for terrorist activity.

The new prime minister will be Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a longtime Taliban member and leader of the group’s shura, or leadership council, for nearly two decades. He is seen as an influential and respected religious figure in the movement rather than a military leader. His deputy will be the head of the Taliban’s political bureau, Mullah Baradar, who spent eight years in prison before being released as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.

The interim government also includes two senior Haqqani network figures who are on the US and UN terrorism lists. Acting Minister for Refugees Khalil Haqqani was designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2011 by US officials who placed a $5 million bounty on his head.

The leader of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has been made acting minister of interior affairs, is also subject to terrorist designations from the US and the United Nations. The State Department has also placed a $5 million bounty on his head.

Sirajuddin Haqqani is one of the two deputy leaders of the Taliban since 2016. The other deputy leader of the Taliban, Mullah Yacoub, is the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar and has been named acting defense minister.

This story has been updated on Tuesday with additional details.

CNN’s Tim Lister, Johnny Hallam, Daniela Diaz, Nikki Robertson, Sonnet Swire and Lauren Fox contributed to this report


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