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NO LEVERAGE: State Dept. Says It Can Do Nothing to Prevent Taliban From Grounding Evac Flights

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


A State Department official has admitted that the Biden administration has no sway whatsoever over the ruling Taliban government now that all U.S. forces have withdrawn and therefore cannot do anything to facilitate the rescue of Americans still trapped in Afghanistan.

The admission comes after President Joe Biden and several others in his administration pledged to get every American out of the country before the last U.S. military member departed.

“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,” a State Department spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon.

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“We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan.”

Those comments come on the heels of reports that private rescue organizations are attempting to get hundreds of Americans as well as Afghani allies out of the country on chartered planes but have been unable to do so either because of State Department bureaucracy or because of Taliban indifference.

On Sunday, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that he knew of at least a half-dozen planes sitting on a tarmac in Mazar-i-Sharif that had allegedly been cleared to fly to a U.S. military installation in the Middle East by the State Department but were unable to depart because the Taliban won’t allow it.

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“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, the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

“State has cleared these flights, and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport,” he continued.

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After Wallace pressed, McCaul added, “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.

“We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Blinken added on Monday that the administration is engaged in a “relentless effort” to get at least 200 and maybe more Americans out of the country who are still stranded there.

“Given these constraints, we also do not have a reliable means to confirm the basic details of charter flights, including who may be organizing them, the number of U.S. citizens and other priority groups on-board, the accuracy of the rest of the manifest, and where they plan to land, among many other issues,” the State Department spokesman said.

But these explanations differ from what the administration was saying just days ago — namely that the U.S. government retained a great deal of “leverage” over the Taliban.

Appearing on MSNBC with Nicolle Wallace last week, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan refused to characterize the Taliban as an enemy, while going on to imply the U.S. government would continue to retain some degree of influence

Sullivan claimed that the administration is “not just going to grant positive relations to the Taliban.

“They’re going to have to earn everything from the international community through actions, not words. That begins with safe passage for Americans and Afghan allies, and that also includes them living up to their counterterrorism commitments, including that Afghanistan can never again be used as a base with which to attack the United States or our allies,” he said.

Sullivan added that the Taliban had “been business-like in their approach with us, not because they’re nice guys — they’re not — but because they’ve had an interest along with us to make that evacuation mission run smoothly.”

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“Going forward, I think they’ll have an interest in responding to our requests because we have an enormous amount of leverage over them,” he claimed.

Earlier, White House press secretary Jen Psaki used the same term to describe U.S.-Taliban relations.

“We have enormous leverage over the Taliban,” Psaki said as the Aug. 31 pullout deadline approached.

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