The Taliban in Afghanistan are “holding hostage” six airplanes carrying American citizens and Afghan allies at an airport in the country, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul has revealed.
McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Sunday the airplanes have been at Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport in northern Afghanistan “for the last couple of days.”
The Taliban are “holding them hostage for demands” despite approval from the US State Department, he added.
“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 said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“State has cleared these flights and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport,” he continued.
McCaul did not provide details of the Taliban are making but 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.
McCaul said "hundreds of American citizens" are still in Afghanistan, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week claimed "under 200 and likely closer to 100" American citizens were still in the country.
The Taliban are poised to run Afghanistan again 20 years after they were removed from power by American forces following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and removed the Taliban from power. American forces occupied the country for about two decades on the pretext of fighting against the Taliban. But as the US forces left Afghanistan, the Taliban stormed into Kabul, weakened by continued foreign occupation.
‘Situation in Afghanistan worse' than pre-9/11’
McCaul on Sunday also said that the situation in Afghanistan is “worse” than before the September 11 terrorist attacks because the Taliban are “fully armed” with American weaponry.
“We're going back to pre-9/11 right now but it's worse, it's worse because now they're fully armed with our weapons, our helicopters, and pallets of our cash,” said McCaul.
America’s capabilities to “deal with” the terror threat are “greatly exaggerated” because Afghanistan is landlocked and surrounded by “enemies” that "have now been emboldened by this foreign policy blunder.”
He also said that officials "have to establish that ISR [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance], you know somewhere over the horizon capability means flying from the (Persian) Gulf, probably countries like Qatar, which would be, you know, anywhere from six to eight hours, having to fly, you know, around Iran over Pakistan, get refueling.”
“When I talk to anybody in the military they tell me this is not adequate for us to have ISR capability, well we need to see, eyes and ears on the ground, to see the threat so that we can respond to the threat and eliminate it,” he added.