Rep. Markwayne Mullin defends attempted rogue rescue operation to Afghanistan

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Rep. Markwayne Mullin defends attempted rogue rescue operation to Afghanistan

A Republican lawmaker from Oklahoma who attempted to fly to Afghanistan as part of a rogue rescue operation at Kabul’s international airport defended the trip Friday night, saying he would “do it again tomorrow.”

However, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, admitted, “I’m not Rambo.”

“I never pretended to be Rambo,” Mullin told Fox News’ “Special Report.” “Out of all the guys that I was working with, I’m the low man on the totem pole, and I understood that, but they felt like I could be of assistance to them.”

“How? Logistically, maybe,” he continued. “Open the doors for them, making phone calls, and being able to take in the SIVs [Afghan visa applicants] or the AMCITS [American citizens] as they came onto the plane.”

Mullin, who was first elected to Congress in 2012 and doesn’t have a military background, told host Bret Baier that as the American withdrawal from Afghanistan was winding down, he started getting calls from “friends of mine that was in the service that said, ‘Can you help our interpreter get out?’”

Plane
After the US’s botched evacuation, Rep. Markwayne Mullin said he received phone calls from people who had family members that were AMCITS.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“Then we started getting phone calls from people that had family members or friends that were AMCITS … to get them out, and I said, ‘Let me make a phone call,’ and it came out that they needed a State Department or a government entity to sponsor their flight going in,” Mullin explained. “That’s the only way they could get in, and no one could sponsor their flight, even though it was designated to get these 20 Americans out.”

Mullin added after he agreed to sponsor the flight, he was asked to accompany its organizers to Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“These are Tier One operators,” he said. “These are Delta [Force] guys, Special Forces, these guys are legit. I’m nobody. I’m just a congressman … [but] when you see a problem, how do you say no if you can be an asset? And they believed I could be an asset.”

But Mullin said his plane’s landing permission was repeatedly canceled — forcing the flight to circle the airport “probably for an hour” while he negotiated with the control tower via text message.

“We had five [permissions] canceled. Every time they canceled, the agency that was trying to get us in would give us a new one,” he recalled. “They actually went into the tower to say, ‘Let them land’ … [but] they would never let us in Afghanistan.”

Mullin added that he believed the flight’s rejection was “100 percent directed by the State Department.

The congressman made headlines Tuesday when The Washington Post reported he had reached out to the US Embassy in Tajikistan for assistance transporting a large sum of money into the former Soviet republic to hire a helicopter to take an American woman and her four kids out of Afghanistan.

Mullin admitted to some aspects of the report, saying that his team “did work around the region.” He also described US Ambassador to Tajikistan John Mark Pommersheim as “not helpful, at all.”

According to Mullin, he notified the ambassador that he was entering Tajikistan “with a large sum of cash.” When Pommersheim asked why the cash was necessary, Mullin said he responded: “Sir, you do know that we’ve got to go through 16 checkpoints just to get from Kabul to [Mazar-i-Sharif]? … He says, ‘I can’t assist you’. Why? ‘I was told not to.’

“You were told not to help an American citizen,” Mullin added. “You were told by the federal government in Washington, DC not to help, when we’re not trying to smuggle anybody over. We’re trying to do a job that President Biden wouldn’t do.”

The Biden administration estimates that around 100 American citizens remain in Afghanistan after the last evacuation flight took off from Kabul on Aug. 30.

Mullin told Baier Friday that he has heard that “there are five planes sitting at [Mazar-i-Sharif] with AMCITS, SIVs, and refugees on it … but they can’t get clearance to get out because no country is willing to help them.

“We called the State Department about this,” he added. “The State Department said, ‘We’re not in control of the airspace, we’re not handling it.’ Well, it’s our mess. I don’t care which way you think about it, it’s our mess. The United States created this vacuum to allow the Taliban to come in. President Biden, with his horrific withdrawal, has caused this to happen.”

Aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport
An aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport boards evacuees, as tons of Americans are still left in Afghanistan after the US’s evacuation plan.
via REUTERS

Mullin added that he knows of 50 American citizens who want out of Afghanistan but have not been able to leave.

“Here we are, the United States government, and we’re negotiating with the Taliban to get American citizens out?” he asked. “And then the president of the United States is going to go to the mic and say that every American that wanted out got out? … I have a list of 50 that we ran out of Kabul and put in safe houses around Afghanistan. I promise you, they wanted out.”

Mullin predicted that while “some” Americans would still manage to leave Afghanistan, “there’s going to be some that’s going to die because of the failure from President Biden, I promise you that.

“At some point they’re [the Taliban] going to lose patience and aren’t going to keeping letting us drive past these checkpoints and paying them off … and when I say that blood is on his hands, that means President Biden’s hands, I mean that with everything in my heart. It’s his fault.”

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