.com with AFP | 8:55 PM – September 6, 2021
The administration of Joe Biden was under pressure Monday, September 6 in the face of sometimes confused information on several hundred people, including a few Americans, stranded at Mazar-i-Sharif airport in northern Afghanistan.
According to Marina LeGree, founder and director of the American NGO Ascend Athletics, between 600 and 1,300 people in total are trying to leave, including 19 Americans, with the help of her organization and other organizations. “It’s been seven days and nothing is moving,” she told AFP, speaking of six aircraft ready to take off.
Her organization, which introduces young girls to rock climbing and other sporting activities, seeks to evacuate a group of Afghan women aged 16 to 23, along with members of their families. They are members of the Hazara minority, who fear persecution by the Taliban. Marina LeGree points to the responsibility of American diplomats.
The take-off seemed well underway a few days ago before the State Department said it could not carry out the screening procedures for the departing candidates, due to a lack of personnel on site, “which looks like an attempt to escape” , she accuses. A State Department spokesperson said he did not have “reliable information that would allow us to confirm information on charter flights, whether it be who is organizing them, the number of US citizens or members of other priority groups on board (…) or where they are to land ”. He said he “understands the concern” of organizations and individuals involved in evacuation attempts.
Satellite images of the airport, dating from September 3, show six planes positioned, one on a runway, the others near buildings. The US Republican opposition has seized on the matter, amid growing unpopularity of Democratic President Joe Biden over his handling of the end of the war in Afghanistan. “This (…) is really moving towards hostage-taking, (the Taliban) will not let American citizens go until they have full recognition from the United States,” Michael said. McCaul, elected Republican in the House of Representatives, on conservative Fox News. But according to Marina LeGree, of the NGO Ascend Athletics, “no one is guarding the door” to prevent departures.
A Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal, expressed his impatience in a statement: “My team and I have been trying to get these planes off for days (…). The delays are not only frustrating, they are inexcusable ”. Eric Montalvo, a former soldier and lawyer, also involved in the evacuation attempt from Mazar-i-Sharif, is more virulent: “The Taliban are not holding these planes hostage. The problem is with the American government. The State Department just has to make a phone call and these people can leave immediately ”.