WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul said on Sunday that six airplanes carrying American citizens and Afghan allies are sitting at an airport in Afghanistan trying to depart, but that the Taliban are “holding them hostage for demands.”
McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the airplanes have been at Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport in northern Afghanistan “for the last couple of days,” but have been unable to leave despite approval from the State Department.
“In fact we have six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif airport, six airplanes, with American citizens on them as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now,” McCaul told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
“State has cleared these flights and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport,” he added.
When pressed by Wallace on what demands the Taliban are making, McCaul said the circumstances are “turning into a hostage situation.”
“Well, they are not clearing airplanes to depart. They’ve sat at the airport for the last couple days, these planes, and they’re not allowed to leave,” McCaul said.
“We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange. This is really, Chris, turning into a hostage situation where they’re not gonna allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America,” he added.
The U.S. completed its withdrawal mission from Afghanistan on Tuesday, but a number American citizens still remain in the country.
McCaul on Sunday said “hundreds of American citizens” are still in Afghanistan, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week said “under 200 and likely closer to 100” U.S. citizens are still in the country.