The Taliban have grounded six charter planes carrying around 1,000 people including 100 American evacuees in Afghanistan, according to a report. A top Republican revealed on Sunday that the six planes are sitting empty at Mazar-i-Sharif airport and the passengers are being treated like hostages.
"We have six airplanes at Mazar 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," Representative Michael McCaul of Texas told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.
In the Midst of Crisis
The Taliban are having negotiations with the U.S. State department about the planes and the passengers. The passengers haven't been allowed to board the planes as more than 1,600 people including hundreds of Americans are still be evacuated from Afghanistan.
The flights chartered by Glenn Beck-funded charity, Mercury One, have cost the organization $750,000 each and are currently sitting empty at an airport in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. "The state has cleared these flights and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport," McCaul said.
Three other evacuation flights that includes two charted by international development organization Sayara, and one by Goldbelt, an Alaska Native corporation, which were supposed to carry around 19 Americans including several others too have been grounded.
According to reports, the passengers are still in their safe houses but Taliban are treating them like hostages. One NGO official told that the planes have not taken off because the Taliban has failed to grant "final clearance" amid negotiations with the State Department that have been "stuck at this point."
McCaul said that the Taliban are purposely not allowing the planes to take off and something immediately needs to be done to avoid further crisis as the lives of hundreds are still in risk.
"We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange. This is really turning into a hostage situation where they're not goâing to allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America," he said.
Senator Ted Cruz, who serves on the Committee on Foreign Relations, also tried to substantiate that claim in a Sunday tweet. "Joe Biden abandoned Americans in Afghanistan," he wrote. "Members of Congress, including me and my office, have been working around the clock to get them out - and for days Biden's State Dept. couldn't even get out of its own way. Now there are deeply disturbing reports of a hostage crisis," he added.
The NGO officials reportedly said that the Taliban grounded the flights amid a breakdown in negotiations with the State Department. One even said that the Taliban could be attempting to "shake down" the airline or State Department for money in exchange for takeoff clearance.
The airport at Mazar-i-Sharif is more than 260 miles from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where military flights evacuated thousands of Americans and allies from the country amid the Taliban takeover. However, evacuation is far from over.
After all U.S. troops left Afghanistan, the Biden administration revealed that it left behind at least 100 American citizens who are now left without options to evacuate.