Blinken calls on Taliban to let charter flights leave Afghanistan
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Taliban officials Wednesday to allow charter flights to leave Afghanistan after lawmakers expressed outrage that the group was essentially holding Americans and Afghan allies hostage in the country.
“We’ve heard in some of our engagements with the Taliban their concern about a so-called brain drain and people with knowledge and expertise leaving the country,” Blinken said in remarks at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
“And one of the things that we shared with them was the best way to get people to stay in Afghanistan is to allow them to leave Afghanistan, as well as to uphold their basic rights,” Blinken continued. “Whether they will take that to heart remains to be seen.”
Blinken said other countries and the United Nations were working on resuming commercial flights to the Afghan capital of Kabul. In the interim, Blinken said the Taliban can allow charter flights to leave the country and “demonstrate its willingness to respect freedom of movement.”
“I think all of you know there are a number of such flights that have been waiting in Mazar-i-Sharif,” Blinken said. “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.”
Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that planes had been sitting at Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport in northern Afghanistan but were unable to leave despite approval from the State Department.
The difficulty getting remaining American citizens out of Afghanistan after the U.S. military completed its withdrawal by Aug. 31 has been a point of bipartisan frustration, and the Taliban’s refusal to allow charter flights to leave the country has only added to the furor.
Blinken is expected to testify before both the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees next week to answer questions from lawmakers on Afghanistan.
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