At least four planes chartered to evacuate several hundred people seeking to escape the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan have been unable to leave the country for days, officials said Sunday, with conflicting accounts of why the flights were unable to take off as pressure mounts on the United States to help those who remain flee.
Taliban prevent evacuee planes from leaving Afghanistan
An Afghan official at the airport in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif said the would-be passengers were Afghans, many of whom did not have passports or visas and therefore could not leave the country. He said they had left the airport while the situation was sorted out.
However, the top Republican on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee said the group included Americans and that they were seated on planes, but that the Taliban would not let them take off, “holding them hostage.” He did not say where that information came from. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the accounts.
The final days of the 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan were marked by a harrowing airlift at Kabul airport to evacuate tens of thousands of people, Americans and their allies, who feared what the future would hold, particularly of women. However, when the last troops withdrew on August 30, many stayed behind.
The U.S. promised to continue working with the new Taliban rulers to remove those they want to leave behind, and the militants pledged to allow anyone with the proper legal documents to leave.
“The Taliban will not let them out of the airport,” he said, adding that he is concerned that “they’re going to demand more and more, whether it’s cash or legitimacy as the government of Afghanistan.” He did not offer further details.
The Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that four planes were involved and that the intended passengers were staying in hotels while authorities determined whether they would be able to leave the country.