Despite the Biden administration’s contradicting reports as to how many Americans were left stranded in Afghanistan, at least several hundred U.S. citizens and Afghan allies were prevented by the Taliban from leaving Afghanistan on Sunday, leaving them in a dire “hostage situation.”
Two congressmen, including Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., suggested that over 500 U.S. citizens are still wanting to leave Afghanistan. They also said six airplanes at the northern Afghanistan airport full of both Americans and Afghan allies have been halted by the Taliban, despite reports that these planes were “cleared” by the State Department.
Issa told the Associated Press that the number of American citizens wanting to leave the Taliban-controlled country is “closer to 500,” not including their families. If spouses and children are counted, that number could rise to as high as 1,000 individuals, including green card holders. This statement contradicts the questionable estimate of 100 to 200 U.S. citizens stranded that Joe Biden and the State Department told the public last week.
McCaul, a top member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said airplanes full of American citizens and Afghan allies have been sitting at the Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport for days as the Taliban holds “them hostage for demands.”
“In fact, we have six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif airport, six airplanes, with American citizens on them as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now,” McCaul told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange,” the congressman continued. “This is really, Chris, turning into a hostage situation where they’re not gonna allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America.”
Many volunteers on the ground in Afghanistan still aiding in the rescue and evacuation efforts have suggested that “the figure does not capture the scale of the problem,” rescue operation Allied Airlift leader Mike Jason initially reported to AP News. He believes the numbers of stranded evacuees are higher than those suggested by the Biden administration because the government is not including family members in the overall tallies.
Jason’s operation has identified 45 Americans in Afghanistan with more than 250 family members that are also trapped with them.
Meanwhile, another informal rescue operation called Digital Dunkirk indicated Americans who have contacted the rescue group were unable to register with the U.S. Embassy, which means that many more people who are not included in embassy registration numbers have yet to be accounted for.
These conflicting reports all lead to one conclusion: the total number of Americans and family members that remain in Afghanistan is still unknown. However, it could be far higher than the Biden administration is admitting to.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated the Biden Administration is attempting to organize charter flights throughout all of Afghanistan with “diplomatic oversight” out of Qatar.