The Taliban cleared around 200 people, including Americans, to fly out of the Kabul airport Thursday after days of keeping planes grounded, according to reports.
Republican Texas Rep. Michael McCaul said Sunday on Fox News that they had multiple airplanes at the airport with American citizens and Afghan interpreters on them that were being held “hostage for demands” by the Taliban. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Taliban to allow flights to leave the country Wednesday, just one day after claiming the militant group wasn’t creating a “hostage-like situation.”
Reports on Thursday indicate that the roughly 200 individuals were cleared by the Taliban to depart Kabul on a Qatari flight, though the number of Americans is unknown at this time. The Associated Press reported that the flight includes “150 Westerners, including Americans” while The Washington Post put the number of Americans at “around 30.”
The State Department would not confirm the reports, saying that it isn’t “in a position to share additional details at this time.”
“As we have said, our efforts to assist U.S. citizens and others to whom we have a special commitment are ongoing, but we aren’t in a position to share additional details at this time,” a State Department spokesperson told the Caller.
“We have been working around the clock to facilitate safe passage of Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan,” a senior administration official told the Caller. “Due to security considerations we don’t have more to share at this time.”
NBC News correspondent Josh Lederman reported that the flight had already taken off from the airport and was carrying “dozens of Americans and other foreigners.”
The flight would be the first commercial plane to leave the Kabul airport in weeks – since the Taliban quickly took over Afghanistan in August, CNN reported. The Taliban’s approval for these 200 people came in part due to pressure from U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, according to CNN, citing a U.S. official.
The Taliban, amid growing concerns from the U.S. about the grounded planes, claimed “some of the passengers do not have the required documentation,” Blinken told reporters.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also claimed Monday that the group was making efforts to resume “normal” operations at the Kabul airport quickly, CNN reported.
Questions, like who will control security assuming the airport resumes operations, still remain. Mujahid claimed another issue was that American forces “deliberately destroyed definite parts of the airport” that needed to be repaired prior to re-opening. The U.S. ended its mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 31 after successfully evacuating over 122,000 people out of the country since July. (RELATED: ‘They Lied To Us’: Hundreds Of American Citizens And Others With Green Cards Were Left In Afghanistan)
President Joe Biden has been sharply criticized for the chaotic drawdown, and some Americans still remain in the country despite a promise from the administration to remain until they were all safely out.