Citing the situation as one of the “hard choices you face in government,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the Biden administration’s decision to not allow charter flights with unvetted passengers from Afghanistan to land on American military bases, due to safety concerns.

While admitting, when pressed by the media, that many of the planes may hold American citizens, Psaki said that they may also hold hundreds of other undocumented Afghan citizens who cannot be properly vetted. 

“They may have several hundred individuals where we don’t have manifests for them, we don’t know what the security protocols are for them, we don’t know what their documentation is,” Psaki said.

“Are we going to allow a plane with hundreds of people where we don’t know who they are, we don’t know what security protocols have been put in place, to land on a U.S. military base,” Psaki added.

The exchange between Psaki and the media highlights the fact that thousands of Afghans rushed Kabul’s airport during the hurried U.S. evacuation and little vetting was done. The Afghan evacuees were flown to U.S. military bases and third countries. 

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki defended the administration’s blocking of private rescue efforts in Afghanistan. (File photo)

 

Senators Call for the US to Assist the Evacuations

Among the nearly 30,000 refugees from Afghanistan flown to the United States, 10,000 of them require further vetting. Worryingly, 100 evacuees are being flagged for being members of the Taliban or other terrorist organizations, according to a report by NBC News

State Department spokesman Ned Price acknowledged that the State Department has refused to grant official approval for private evacuation flights from Afghanistan to land in third countries.

Following the U.S.’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left hundreds of Americans behind despite vows to the contrary, private evacuation flights have been frustrated by the State Department’s refusal to assist. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is “frustrated and even furious” over the Biden administration’s delaying of flights with Americans trying to escape Afghanistan.

Blumenthal issued a press release eviscerating the Biden administration for delaying flights out of the Mazar-e Sharif airport in Afghanistan following reports of the administration refusing to allow flights to go to U.S. military bases or to third countries.

“This is an attempt to save face by the administration for the Americans they left behind. This is a woman with three children from age 15 all the way down to two years old. And they did nothing to try to expedite this,” Senator Blumenthal said referring to an American who had been left behind. She was eventually rescued thanks to private efforts.

“There will be plenty of time to seek accountability for the inexcusable bureaucratic red tape that stranded so many of our Afghan allies,” Blumenthal said. “For now, my singular focus remains to get these planes in the air and safely to our airbase in Doha, where they have already been cleared to land.”

 

Private Rescue Efforts

Afghanistan private rescue flights
A private rescue aircraft is watched by a Taliban fighter decked out in a U.S. kit. The State Department is blocking rescue efforts by private groups. (Reuters)

Eric Montalvo, a private rescue organizer, shared an email he received from the State Department after his efforts were blocked — not by the Taliban, but from State. 

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“No independent charters are allowed to land at [Al Udeid Air Base…] In fact, no charters are allowed to land at a [sic] DoD base, and most if not all countries in the Middle Eastern region, with the exception of perhaps Saudi Arabia, will allow charters to land,” the State Department official wrote in the email to Montalvo.  

“You need to find another destination country, and it can’t be the U.S. either.”

In the email, the State Department official noted that landing in third countries will require State Department authorization noting, the department “will not provide” that approval.

Although the State Department is holding up private rescue efforts it quickly tries to claim credit for getting people out when such private rescue efforts are successful.

Cory Mills, founder and CEO of PACEM Solutions International and PACEM Defense LLC, and a team of former Special Forces veterans with funding from private sources helped the woman and her three children, to whom Senator Blumenthal referred, escape Afghanistan after they were left behind. They attempted several times to access the gate at Kabul’s airport only to be turned away by Americans, stating that they were no longer allowing people through the gates. 

The woman and her children were evacuated by the team to a safe house outside the city and then by vehicle through the border of a neighboring country. The country wasn’t specified to prevent the Taliban from stopping further evacuations. 

Mills called the State Department’s version of facilitating the family’s evacuation as “absolute nonsense.” 

“This is an attempt to save face by the administration for the Americans they left behind. This is a woman with three children from age 15 all the way down to two years old. And they did nothing to try to expedite this… But at the very last minute you have these ‘senior officials’ at the State Department trying to claim credit for this like ‘oh yeah look what we’ve done,'” Mills said. 

“It’s like we carried the ball to the 99-and-a-half yard line and them taking it that last half yard and being like ‘look what we did.'”

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