Planes Chartered To Evacuate Individuals And Others From Afghanistan Stay Grounded : NPR


An airplane flies over on the 30. Sascha Schuermann / Getty Images hide the caption

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An airplane flies over on Jan.

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Several planes designed to carry hundreds of people who say they are afraid of life under Taliban rule, including American citizens and green card holders, spent another day on a runway in northern Afghanistan on Monday.

Marina LeGree, executive director of Ascend, a nonprofit that teaches young Afghan women leadership through mountaineering and other athletics, told NPR’s Jackie Northam that several Afghans who were part of her group were stuck. LeGree said this was on top of more than 600 others, including at least 19 US citizens and two US green card holders.

Among the hundreds of travelers stranded were NGO members, journalists and vulnerable women, according to LeGree.

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LeGree of her home in Italy said these travelers had now spent seven days awaiting clearance clearance and settled near the airport in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

On Sunday, Texas MP Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Fox News that the Taliban are holding people “hostage” and that there are “six planes with American citizens on them while I speak.”

While LeGree confirmed that she had been told there were six planes in total, she clarified that travelers were not “physically waiting on board” planes.

NPR has not been able to independently confirm details of the situation in Mazar-e-Sharif.

McCaul said the Taliban would not let the planes fly until their “demands” were met, possibly in the form of “cash or legitimacy as the Afghan government”.

A State Department spokesman told NPR’s Michele Kelemen that the US is ready to help any remaining US citizens, green card holders and vulnerable Afghans who want to leave.

On Monday, a State Department official said the US had “facilitated the safe land departure of four Americans” that day. The officer did not identify the Americans or state the country they were taken to.

But the ministry also said it advises against chartered planes because – with no more ground personnel left in Afghanistan – it cannot properly confirm the aircraft’s passenger lists.

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An Afghan official at Mazar-e-Sharif airport told the Associated Press that many of the Afghan travelers did not have passports or visas.

The US government says that for security reasons, all people entering US military bases must be screened.

LeGree said she understood from talking to local sources that the main problem now is negotiations between the Taliban and Kam Air, which operates the flights, over the cost of using the airport.