According to an email, the State Department refused to grant official approval for private evacuation flights from Afghanistan to land in third countries, despite the fact that the department admitted that official authorization would most likely be required for planes to land in those countries.
Furthermore, the State Department stated unequivocally that charter flights, including those carrying American citizens, would not be permitted to land at Defense Department (DOD) airbases.
The Biden administration’s decision to postpone private evacuation efforts has enraged rescue organizers and even a prominent Democratic senator. After his evacuation efforts were repeatedly thwarted by the federal bureaucracy, Eric Montalvo, who organized a series of private flights evacuating those stranded in Afghanistan, shared that email and others with Fox News.
A September 1 email from a State Department official to Montalvo emphasizes the extent to which private evacuation efforts have been stymied by bureaucratic roadblocks.
“At [Al Udeid Air Base], the military airbase you mentioned in your conversation with Samantha Power, no independent charters are permitted to land.”
In fact, no charters are permitted to land at a DoD base, and most, if not all, Middle Eastern countries, with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia, will permit charters to land,” the official wrote.
“You must find another destination country, and it cannot be the United States.”
Although some third countries “may require” official approval from the State Department before accepting private charter flights, the official stated that the department “will not provide” that approval.
“Once you have reached an agreement with the host/destination country, they may require some indication from the USG that we ‘approve’ of this charter flight. DOS will not issue an approval, but we will send a ‘no objection’ letter to the destination country’s government through the US Embassy in that country.”
On Sept. 2, the day after the official stated that the State Department would not be officially approving charter flights, White House press secretary Jen Psaki and State Department spokesman Ned Price both denied that the Biden administration was preventing planes from leaving Afghanistan.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment for this story, instead referring to remarks made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday.
“We’re working around the clock with non-governmental organizations, members of Congress, and advocacy groups, providing any and all information and doing everything we can to clear any roadblocks that they’ve identified so that charter flights carrying Americans or others to whom we have a special responsibility can depart Afghanistan safely,” Blinken said.
“We can’t verify the accuracy of manifests, passenger identities, flight plans, or aviation security protocols without personnel on the ground. So this is a challenge, but we are determined to overcome it. We’re conducting extensive diplomacy on this right now.”
Blinken also denied that the Taliban was attempting to prevent Americans with passports from leaving Afghanistan. “And, from what I understand, the Taliban has not denied entry to anyone holding a valid document, but they have said that those without valid documents cannot leave at this time,” he said.
Americans involved in efforts to rescue those left behind in Afghanistan have previously expressed outrage at what they call inexplicable State Department delays that are preventing evacuation flights from leaving the country.
Rick Clay, the founder of the private rescue organization PlanB, previously stated that the only thing preventing the flights he is organizing from leaving Afghanistan is the State Department. Other rescue mission organizers echoed Clay’s criticisms.
On Monday, four Americans, a mother and her three children, were able to flee Afghanistan by traveling across the border to a neighboring country. While the State Department claimed to have “facilitated” the family’s evacuation, the rescue mission’s organizers claimed that the department overstated its involvement and deserves little to no credit for the rescue.