Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced on Thursday that nearly 800 people who had been stranded in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, have safely arrived in Qatar.
The Senate Democrat said that two planes, which were chartered by the international development organization Sayara International, had arrived with “hundreds of brave, resilient Americans & Afghan allies onboard.”
I’m elated & relieved to announce that 2 planes chartered by @SayaraIntl have safely arrived at Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar from Maser-e Sharif, Afghanistan with hundreds of brave, resilient Americans & Afghan allies onboard. 1/— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) October 7, 2021
Blumenthal thanked volunteers and advocates for their help, noting that Albania and Qatar in particular had assisted the United States in evacuating the Americans and allies.
The news comes as the U.S. has continued to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies since the U.S. left Afghanistan ahead of a self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline. Between the end of July and the end of August, more than 123,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan, though the Biden administration received bipartisan criticism from lawmakers, including Blumenthal, who expressed their frustrations over leaving Americans and Afghans behind.
Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulPentagon, State Department square off on Afghanistan accountability Mike Siegel: Potential McConaughey candidacy a 'sideshow' in Texas governor race Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' MORE (R-Texas) claimed in early September that six aircraft carrying evacuees could not leave because the Taliban was “holding them hostage for demands.” Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUS, Brazil discuss ways to slow migration Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics MORE said two days later during a news conference that “not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage life situation in Mazar-i-Sharif.”
Blinken did acknowledge during the press conference that, “We've been able to identify a relatively small number of Americans who we believe are seeking to depart from Mazar-i-Sharif with their families.”
“We have been assured, again, that all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave,” he added.
Flights from Mazar-i-Sharif appeared to resume later that month. CNN reported that a chartered flight left in mid-September with roughly 400 people on it, including Americans and Afghan allies, to Qatar.
When asked on Thursday how many Americans were still seeking to leave the country, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the number continues to be “dynamic.”
He added that the State Department was not in a position to confirm the private chartered flights “because of operational security considerations. Because of our desire not to in any way impede such operations.”
He did note that the U.S. government had directly facilitated the evacuation of 105 U.S. citizens and 95 lawful permanent residents since Aug. 31.