A leaked email confirms that the State Department refused to grant official approval for private evacuation flights to land in third countries, resulting in the delayed rescue of hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan.
Security and intelligence experts working hard to evacuate Americans have repeatedly complained that the State Department hinders private extraction efforts; in fact, they have even reported that the agency went so far as to steal credit for the rescue of an American family in Afghanistan.
An email verified by Fox News notes that the State Department explicitly stated that charter flights, even those with American citizens, could not land at Department of Defense (DOD) air bases.
The email to Eric Montalvo, one of the organizers of private extraction flights, notes that charter flights to evacuate Americans are not allowed.
“No independent charters are allowed to land at [Al Udeid Air Base], the military airbase you mentioned in your communication with Samantha Power. In fact, no charters are allowed to land at an [sic] DoD base and most if not all countries in the Middle Eastern region, with the exception of perhaps Saudi Arabia will allow charters to land,” the State Department official wrote.
The official noted that while some third countries “may require” official State Department approval, the department “will not provide” such approval.
Officials have pointed to potential security threats to landing charter aircraft on military bases, saying they lack the resources on the ground to fully verify flight manifests.
The details of the State Department email
A Sept. 1 email that a State Department official sent to Montalvo underscores the extent to which private evacuation efforts have run into bureaucratic hurdles.
“You need to find another destination country, and it can’t be the United States either (…) DOS will not provide an approval, but we will provide a ‘no objection’ to the government of the destination country through the U.S. Embassy in that country,” quotes the email accessed by Fox News.
The new information contradicts White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who went so far as to say that the Biden administration was not preventing aircraft from leaving Afghanistan.
While the State Department does not prevent flights with Americans from taking off, it does not allow them to land, so the security experts who work daily to rescue nationals are frustrated that their hands are tied, and many have decided to have the extraction done by land.
State Department spokesman Ned Price claims that while aircraft are not being prevented from leaving Afghanistan, there are security risks in allowing charter flights to land at military bases.
But while this is happening, Secretary of State Antony Blinken notes that because he has no officials on the ground, “it is a challenge” to identify Americans and Afghan collaborators who want to board flights out of Afghanistan.
“Without personnel on the ground, we can’t verify the accuracy of manifests, passenger identities, flight plans or aviation security protocols. So this is a challenge, but we are determined to work. We’re doing a lot of diplomacy on this as we speak,” said Blinken who still does not acknowledge that withdrawing the troops before the nationals was a mistake by the administration.
According to Biden there are between 100 and 200 Americans who were left behind when the troops completed their withdrawal on August 31, many of them dual citizens.
The State Department has not yet given an estimate of the number of green card holders or Afghans who helped the U.S. during the war and who received a special immigrant visa to live in the United States.