Biden admin’s response to Taliban ‘excuse’ for grounded flights slammed by lawmakers
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Wednesday that the Taliban have kept planes grounded in Kabul because some evacuees lack required visa documentation, but Republicans on the Hill are frustrated with that “excuse” from the administration when it comes to getting evacuees out of Afghanistan.
A spokesperson for Michigan Republican Rep. Peter Meijer, who traveled in secret to Afghanistan prior to the withdrawal of U.S. forces, told Fox News the congressman “believes that the Taliban’s comments regarding delayed charter flights are not an excuse for the issues we’re seeing with evacuations from Afghanistan.”
Blinken told reporters Wednesday, that “as of now, the Taliban are not permitting the charter flights to depart.”
“They claim that some passengers do not have the required documentation,” Blinken said. “While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground, without an airport with normal security procedures in place, we are working to do everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground.”
But a spokesperson from the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Fox News that one of the holdups in getting visa documentation finalized for at-risk Afghans is the application procedure.
Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants are required to go through a 14-step process that relies on agencies outside of the State Department for final approval, and one of the major hurdles at the moment is the in-person interview.
With the official withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the closure of the Kabul embassy, there are no U.S. officials remaining in the now Taliban-controlled nation to complete the SIV application process.
On Tuesday, Blinken told reporters it was his “understanding” 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.”
But even those who have proper documentation have been barred from exiting the country.
The secretary alleged this was because passengers have been “grouped together,” and added, “that’s meant that flights have not been allowed to go.”
Lawmakers remain frustrated by the administration’s response to those who have been stuck in Afghanistan for over a week, since the withdrawal of U.S. forces on Aug. 31.
“No matter what the Biden administration tries to claim, we know for a fact there are Americans with proper documents who are trying to leave and have not been able to,” the lead Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, told Fox News.
Lawmakers are also concerned about the Taliban’s reliability when it comes to allowing Afghan allies and other at-risk evacuees to vacate the country.
“Since the Taliban is the only voice we’re hearing from the ground, we have no way of verifying what is causing delays,” the spokesman for Meijer said. “We have yet to see anything of substance from the Biden administration regarding their plans to evacuate American citizens and our loyal allies.
“They clearly have no plans other than relying on the Taliban’s goodwill.”
Blinken told reporters Wednesday that the administration has “made it clear” to the Taliban that charter flights “need to be able to depart.”
But the secretary did not go into detail about what repercussions the insurgent group could face if they continue to bar departures.