Sen. Richard Blumenthal took aim at the White House and State Department on Monday, saying he is “furious” over struggles to secure planes to evacuate a group of Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan.
“I have been deeply frustrated, even furious, at our government’s delay and inaction,” Blumenthal, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “I expect the White House and State Department to do everything in their power, absolutely everything, to make this happen. These are American citizens and Afghans who risked everything for our country. We cannot leave them behind.”
The Connecticut senator said he and his staff “have worked night and day” along with a coalition of nongovernmental organizations and former service members to secure two planes to evacuate a group of American citizens, Afghan allies, and their families from Afghanistan to Doha, Qatar, where many evacuees are being processed.
“I haven’t yet spoken publicly about these efforts because we worried that heightened attention would only escalate tensions and put these people at even greater risk of being targeted,” Blumenthal said.
But efforts have run into roadblocks from the Biden administration, leaving the planes waiting in Mazar-e Sharif.
Other congressional offices coordinating evacuation efforts have reported similar frustrations with the State Department.
The office of Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, told the Washington Examiner last week that after securing a charter flight to evacuate a group, including American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Special Immigrant Visa holders, the State Department pulled the clearance for the charter plane due to the ISIS-K bombing that killed 13 service members at the Kabul airport. They also had trouble getting the State Department to help coordinate overflight rights from Saudi Arabia and coordination to land in Jordan.
Criticisms of President Joe Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal from within his own party have been building over the last several weeks.
Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took an apparent swipe at the Biden administration for working with the Taliban to secure passage through Taliban-controlled areas after the bombing at Kabul airport: “As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security.”
Several Democratic-led committees have indicated they will investigate the withdrawal’s “flawed execution.”
“There will be plenty of time to seek accountability for the inexcusable bureaucratic red tape that stranded so many of our Afghan allies. For now, my singular focus remains getting these planes in the air and safely to our air base in Doha, where they have already been cleared to land,” Blumenthal said Monday.
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Original Author: Emily Brooks