McCaul Presses McKeon for Answers on Americans Still Trapped in AfghanistanPress Release
Washington, D.C.- Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican McCaul questioned U.S. Department of State’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, Brian P. McKeon, on the Biden Administration’s failed Afghanistan withdrawal and their plan for evacuating Americans still left behind.
“There are American citizens with blue passports trapped in Mazar-i-Sharif. I can’t put this in the record because I can’t reveal their identity. These girls and mothers, families, they’re all in safehouses outside Mazar-i-Sharif, and they can’t get out of the country. I sent a personal, private letter to the secretary with these pictures…I haven’t received a response…The only response I got was that this is under State Department review. Are you aware of these cases?”
-Questions and Answers as Delivered-
Rep. McCaul: You know the United States abides by the creed of no one left behind. We left a lot behind. Many American citizens, lawful permanent residents, green card holders. Can you give us the numbers that the state department currently has because these numbers seem to fluctuate every day?
Dep. Sec. McKeon: Of Americans remaining in Afghanistan?
Rep. McCaul: American citizens, and then lawful permanent residents?
Dep. Sec. McKeon: We don’t track the latter, Mr. McCaul – I don’t have a number on green card holders. On American citizens, as of yesterday afternoon, we are in touch with about – with – 289 Americans in Afghanistan. As we talk to them, we ask them their status, whether they’re interested in departing, if they’re ready to depart in the near future, if they have sufficient travel documents like their passport. That number right now of people who are ready to depart is 81. Over this past week, we’ve gotten about 140 Americans.
Rep. McCaul: We’re in touch with a lot of these outside groups and getting our own intelligence. There are American citizens with blue passports trapped in Mazar-i-Sharif. I can’t put this in the record because I can’t reveal their identity. These girls and mothers, families, they’re all in safehouses outside Mazar-i-Sharif, and they can’t get out of the country. I sent a personal, private letter to the secretary with these pictures. This is flight 002. They are trapped. They can’t get out. I haven’t received a response. This is through the Afghan Departure Group, funded through Allied Airlift 21. There are many of them. The only response I got was that this is under State Department review. Are you aware of these cases?
Dep. Sec. McKeon: Mr. McCaul, we’ve been in contact with a lot of groups that are trying to facilitate charters out of Mazar, and we have facilitated several of them that have gone primarily to al Udeid in Qatar. If I could briefly just explain some of the issues that we’ve confronted with some of these charter efforts. First, the airline company that they’re using has, shall we say, a spotty safety record and can’t land in a lot of countries, so they seek to go to Qatar. If they go to Qatar, per our arrangement with the state of Qatar, they’re coming into our system, so we’re going to own them in some respect. We don’t have anyone on the ground who can validate the manifests and who is getting on the aircraft. And we’ve had some challenges with some of these planes. We’ve had some stowaways; the aircrew themselves wanted to stay in Qatar and not return to Afghanistan. Early on, I’ll give you one example; we had a group with a manifest that had maybe 10 or 12 Americans and a couple hundred or so Afghans. We checked the passport records, and sure enough, 7 or 8 of the 10 were American citizens, but most of them were in the United States, not in Afghanistan.
Rep. McCaul: Will you ensure me that you will take a look at this letter?
Dep. Sec. McKeon: I certainly will.
Rep. McCaul: I have received no response.
Dep. Sec. McKeon: When I get back this afternoon, we’ll look for it, and I’ll drill down and find out the circumstances.
Rep. McCaul: The pictures, again, I can’t put them in the record for their safety. They are in safe houses being protected from the Taliban, but they’re young women and children. It’s very sad, holding up the blue passports; I mean they’re all holding up their blue passports. I don’t know why we can’t get them out. These aren’t even P1 or P2s, and that’s a whole other probably hundred thousand at risk now under the Taliban rule, and you don’t have the count on the lawful permanent residents. So we have green card holders over there, we don’t even know how many there are, and we can’t get them out, you know, either. Let me ask you this question; we talked about these groups. My experience was when the gates started to close at the airport, State Department started to just pull out, and it was these private organizations, these patriots stepped up to the plate, many of them active duty, veterans, and funded by private citizens. What are you doing today to coordinate with these groups to try to get out the families of people like these that are still trapped behind enemy lines and fear for their life every day from the threat of the Taliban?
Dep. Sec. McKeon: So, we have a unit now that we call CARE: Coordinator for Afghan Relocation Efforts led by former Ambassador Beth Jones, who I believe you’ve spoken with recently. They are engaged with the consortium of veteran’s groups that are doing just that, and very recently, we worked with them on a flight that essentially, they put together the manifests out of Kabul, and I believe we paid for the flight if I’m – I’ll double check that. So, we are partnering with veteran organizations in a more systemic way.
Rep. McCaul: Can I just close by saying we should pay for the flight to get American citizens out. If the State Department isn’t paying for this and private organizations are, what good is the State Department?
Dep. Sec. McKeon: I’m almost certain that we are. But I never like to say anything without 100% certainty.
Rep. McCaul: I look forward to working with you. Thank you.
Dep. Sec. McKeon: I’ll look for that letter and give you a ring later this week about it.