US faces pressure as NGOs say flights stranded in Afghanistan
United States President Joe Biden-led administration is facing increasing pressure as reports suggest nearly 1,000 people are currently stranded near an airport in northern Afghanistan. People associated with several different NGOs (non-governmental organizations) claimed that flights have been unable to fly out of Mazar-i-Sharif because of approval issues involving the US government and the Taliban, which now controls Afghanistan.
'It's been days and nothing's moving'
Marina LeGree, the founder of an American NGO that empowers girls and young women through physical training, said 600 to 1,300 people had been waiting for a week. "It's been seven days and nothing's moving," she told AFP. Six charter planes are waiting at the airport and people are housed at various places across the city. "The Taliban is simply not letting anything move."
Organizer accuses the US State Department for delay
Meanwhile, Rick Clay, who runs a private rescue group called PlanB, alleged the US State Department is the only entity preventing flights from leaving Afghanistan. The Department "is not allowing any private charters carrying refugees (to) land anywhere." "If we can get aircraft in and pick up people and bring them out, why can't we take them to Doha to the refugee center?"
'The blood is on the White House's hands'
"This is zero place to be negotiating with American lives. Those are our people standing on the tarmac and all it takes is a f****ng phone call," another person involved with private evacuation efforts told Fox News. "If one life is lost as a result of this, the blood is on the White House's hands. The blood is on their hands," that person added.
What is the State Department's take on the issue?
The US State Department has reportedly acknowledged there are charter flights waiting at the said airport. A spokesperson for the Department, however, added that it has limited resources in Afghanistan. "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."
The Taliban has denied causing the delay
The Taliban has denied accusations that it caused the delay. "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.
US conducted a hasty pullout amid the Taliban capture
The US carried out 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. More than 1,20,000 people were flown out in one of the largest such operations in history. However, over 100 Americans and thousands of Afghan allies have been left behind, officials admitted.
4 Americans left Afghanistan by road after August 31
On Monday, the State Department announced that four American citizens had left Afghanistan by road, reaching an undisclosed neighboring country. Those were the first officially-acknowledged departures since the August 31 deadline set by the US.
Taliban yet to form government weeks after takeover
The Taliban claims to have seized the province of Panjshir, the last one holding out against the group. However, resistance leaders have denied those claims. They said they "continue to fight" and have called for a "national uprising" against the Taliban. The group had captured Kabul on August 15 but is yet to form a government, reportedly due to disagreements between factions.