State Dept. interference grounded Afghanistan rescue flights, group says

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State Dept. interference grounded Afghanistan rescue flights, group says

The leader of a non-profit group working to extricate Americans and Afghan allies from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan has accused the State Department of hampering its evacuation efforts.

Task Force Argo co-founder Jesse Jensen, a former Army Ranger and Republican congressional candidate, told The Post that the department is making it “impossible for private rescue organizations” to remove those threatened with retribution by the Taliban for their work with the US government or military.

In one case, Jensen claimed that earlier this year, Task Force Argo secured 1,000 beds in a so-called “lily-pad” country. The beds would have been used by approximately 1,200 people flown out from Afghanistan and stopping over in the third country en route to America.

However, before the flights could leave Afghanistan, Jensen alleged, the State Department informed the organization that they needed to take the beds for a separate group of people who had already been evacuated to Germany.

Task Force Argo co-founder and Republican congressional candidate Jesse Jensen accused the State Department of hampering his organization's rescue efforts in Afghanistan.
Task Force Argo co-founder and Republican congressional candidate Jesse Jensen accused the State Department of hampering his organization’s rescue efforts in Afghanistan.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Without the beds, Task Force Argo had no place to fly the 1,200 people — which included one American citizen, members of his family and a handful of green card holders. 

“So not only [is the] State Department, like not being helpful, they’re actively stealing things that we’ve negotiated,” said Jensen, who claimed that similar actions have grounded several of Task Force Argo’s evacuation flights. 

Afghan people that were aided by Task Force Argo.
Afghans who were aided by Task Force Argo.
Courtesy of Task Force Argo

“They’re blocking any private rescue organization’s negotiations with third party, ‘lily-pad’ countries. We have three flights that have been grounded for over eight weeks with 1,200 souls waiting to be evacuated,” he said. “Amongst them are Catholic nuns, an American citizen, family members and green card holders and other at-risk individuals. And we have not been able to evacuate them because we have no place to take them.” 

Jensen further accused the department of having “next to no interest” in evacuating the people who “put their lives on the line to protect American citizen service members.”

The State Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment by The Post. 

Task Force Argo is one of several privately run nonprofit organizations that has assisted in evacuating thousands of American citizens and Afghan allies from Afghanistan since the official American troop withdrawal ended Aug. 31. 

Jensen claimed the State Department made it "impossible for private rescue organizations" to evacuate people.
Jensen claimed the State Department is making it “impossible for private rescue organizations” to evacuate people.
dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

According to Jensen, Task Force Argo has rescued 2,126 Afghan allies, American citizens and green card holders — and faces a backlog of 4,000 people who have requested help. 

On Tuesday, non-profit organization No One Left Behind told The Post that they are tracking more than 10,000 people eligible/in-process/approved for SIVs and 38,000 family members that have requested their help in getting out of the embattled country. 

“This is likely a limited picture with more that have not reached out to us, but it underscores the significant volume of people in dire need as winter approaches and Taliban control resulting in food shortages and human rights abuses, including directly targeting those that helped US forces,” a director at No One Left Behind said.

On Monday, the State Department claimed that fewer than a dozen US citizens remain in Afghanistan who wish to leave. 

The department did not reveal how many Afghan allies who wish to get out remain in the country, but noted it has been able to relocate more than 2,200 Afghan allies — many of whom are holders of, or applicants for SIVs. 

During Tuesday’s daily White House press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki defended the administration’s efforts, saying that if Americans in the country “wanted to leave, whether it was three weeks from now, a month from now, two months from now, [or] back in August, we would help get them out.”

“And that is something that we’ve delivered on our word.”

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