McCaul pressures State to formalize ties to outside evacuation groups

McCaul pressures State to formalize ties to outside evacuation groups

House Foreign Affairs ranking member 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) is seeking to pressure the State Department to formalize its relationship with various task forces continuing on-the-ground efforts to evacuate at-risk Afghans.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Nearly 200 Americans want to leave Afghanistan, State Department tells Congress Syria's challenge to Tony Blinken's conscience MORE, McCaul said the department needs to work on “intensifying” its work with volunteer-led groups like Digital Dunkirk, Task Force Pineapple, Allied Airlift 21 and others started by veterans that sprung up after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

“In the absence of clear official channels in this chaotic situation, there must be close collaboration and support from your Department, the Pentagon and others on these efforts. You owe it to those in harm’s way to help mitigate any risks and assist as much as possible,” McCaul wrote in a letter shared with The Hill.

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The groups have been working to get Afghans, including former interpreters and others that assisted the military, out of the country. 

While the administration evacuated about 125,000 people from Afghanistan last month, independent analysts estimate that more than 100,000 people who fall into a priority category for evacuation were left behind.

McCaul’s letter comes as the State and Defense departments met with a number of the groups and suggested formalizing a private-public partnership to help coordinate efforts — something that has yet to officially come to fruition.

State has largely touted its relationships with outside groups, with State Department spokesman Ned Price saying earlier this month that it aims to “organize the broad and oftentimes disparate efforts of outside groups to see to it that all of these efforts are as effective as they can be.”

“We greatly appreciate the constructive efforts of these groups. There is a great amount of passion, there is a great amount of determination, and there is a great amount of ingenuity that these groups, these individuals, these actors, have displayed. And so we are organizing an effort to help us — to help us organize these efforts on the part of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations],” Price said, adding that it would “provide them with the information that they need.”

But McCaul is eager to see the partnerships become more formalized, particularly as the groups work to get charter flights off the ground in Mazar-i-Sharif.

“These private groups providing evacuation support to Americans and Afghans need your assistance to get planes off the ground. There is an urgent necessity for manifest vetting, flight clearance, and assistance with the many other needs of those waiting for evacuation,” he wrote.

“The Department of State must assist with onward travel support now, and it is imperative that support be given to those crossing land borders. Time is of the essence.”