Blinken now says Taliban blocking Afghanistan rescue flights

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Blinken now says Taliban blocking Afghanistan rescue flights

So much for taking the Taliban at its word!

Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that Taliban fighters are holding back flights intended to ferry US citizens and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan on Wednesday — contradicting his comments from a day before denying that the extremist group was holding Americans hostage. 

“Those flights need to be able to leave, and the United States government, State Department – we are doing everything we can to help make that happen,” Blinken told reporters at the US air base in Ramstein, Germany.

“Those flights need to move. I pointed out some of the complications that are there, but those flights need to move.”

The Biden administration has come under fire for not doing more to force the Taliban to allow flights to leave amid reports that as many as six planes were sitting on the tarmac at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport waiting clearance to depart.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that the Taliban is preventing some planes from leaving that would be carrying American citizens and allies.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that the Taliban is preventing some planes from leaving that would be carrying American citizens and allies.
Olivier Douliery/Pool Photo via AP

Blinken, speaking at Ramstein during a press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said the international community is putting immense pressure on the Taliban to allow the evacuations flights to resume. 

“In the meantime, an immediate way the Taliban can demonstrate its willingness to respect freedom of movement is by allowing the departure of charter flights with properly documented passengers,” he said.

“I think all of you know there are a number of such flights that have been waiting in Mazar-i-Sharif. And this is a point that we’ve made crystal-clear in recent engagements with the Taliban and we encourage others to do the same,” he said. 

Still the story from the Biden administration on those flights seems to change every day, with no resolution.

A Taliban forces member stationed at the airport in Kabul on September 5, 2021.
A Taliban forces member stationed at the airport in Kabul on September 5, 2021.
REUTERS/Stringer

On Tuesday, Blinken said there was a “relatively” small number of Americans in Afghanistan and blamed the holdup on paperwork snafus, which was affirnmed by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

“We are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage life situation in Mazar-i-Sharif,” Blinken said ​during a press conference in Doha​, Qatar, where he and Defense Secretary Lloyd were holding meetings with leaders of the Gulf state.

“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,” Blinken said.

“And again, we intend to hold the Taliban to that,” he ​said.

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