Six airplanes stuck at Afghanistan airport; 1,000 waiting to leave
About 1,000 people, including American citizens, have been stuck for days in Afghanistan, awaiting clearance for their flights to leave, Reuters reported citing an organizer. In satellite images of the Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport, six planes could be seen standing near its main terminal. The development comes a week after the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, following the Taliban takeover of the country.
US, Qatar have allowed the flights to operate
The US military has approved some of the flights to fly out to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Officials in that country have also provided clearance for the planes to land, according to The New York Times. However, a final approval from the Taliban is awaited. Besides dozens of Americans, the evacuees include Afghans hoping to reach the US or other countries.
US State Department acknowledges the issue
In an email to members of Congress, the US State Department acknowledged there were charter flights waiting at the said airport, reports said. A spokesperson for the Department, however, told the BBC, "We do not have personnel on the ground, we do not have air assets in the country, we do not control the airspace - whether over Afghanistan or elsewhere in the region."
Taliban rejects accusations, calls them 'propaganda'
Mike McCaul, a top Republican, said on Sunday, "This is really...turning into a hostage situation where they're not going to allow American citizens [to] leave." The Taliban, however, has denied the accusations. "This is not true. Our Mujahideen have nothing to do with ordinary Afghans. This is propaganda and we reject it," said the group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
'It's just a nasty scene'
Marina LeGree, who leads a non-profit organization providing athletic training to women, said 34 people from her group had last week traveled to Mazar-i-Sharif, hoping to board a plane. "The pressure is building. The crowd is growing. It's just a nasty scene," she said. "For us, we can't go back. The girls are terrified... Going back is just not an option."
US organized a hasty pullout amid the Taliban capture
The US organized a hasty pullout of its troops, citizens, and Afghan allies amid the collapse of the West-backed Afghanistan government and the Taliban's return to power. However, more than 100 Americans and thousands of Afghan allies have been left behind, officials say. The Taliban had seized the Afghan capital Kabul on August 15, regaining power after two decades of war.