Several planes are ready to bring U.S. citizens and green card holders out of Afghanistan – but the Taliban won’t leave, officials say

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Several planes ready to take American citizens and green card holders out of the country have been denied exit permits by the Taliban, Congress and NGO sources told CBS News.

Excerpts from an email sent by the State Department to members of Congress, viewed by CBS News, confirmed that charter flights on the Mazar-i-Sharif runway in northern Afghanistan are still on the ground and are allowed to land in Doha “if and if the Taliban agree “. lift up.”

“The Taliban are basically holding them hostage to get more out of the Americans,” a senior source from Congress told CBS News.

Ascend group, an NGO that teaches leadership through athletics to young women, told CBS News it had two planes waiting for six days to carry between 600 and 1200 people – including 19 American citizens and two permanent residents.

CBS News couldn’t confirm these numbers, but three other sources did confirm that Americans are in the area waiting to evacuate by charter flights.

The planes are currently not charged. Passengers are being held nearby because the Taliban won’t let them into the airport, according to a high-level Congress source.

“The US airfield in Qatar, which was ready to receive, is now starting to pack,” Marina LeGree, the group’s chief executive officer, told CBS News. “We hope that visibility will increase the pressure to force a solution. Six days of talks are not encouraging.”

The State Department advised members of Congress to tell groups trying to evacuate from Mazar-i-Sharif that the government “has no staff on the ground in Mazar, we have no air forces in the country, and we have the airspace.”

“It is a decision of the Taliban to land flights in Mazar-i-Sharif,” the email said. “However, wherever possible – and with an emphasis on security – we provide guidance and support to private companies operating out of Mazar.”

Congressional and NGO sources told CBS News that there are at least two physical aircraft on the ground and six more with clearance. The obstacle is the Taliban, who control the airport and do not let people get on or take off planes.

“We had six planes at the airport, six planes with American citizens as I speak, including those interpreters, and the Taliban are holding them hostage over claims,” ​​said Michael McCaul, a Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Fox News on Sunday.

The State Department told Congress it would continue to “monitor” the Taliban’s flight bans and work with lawmakers on the matter. The department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CBS News.

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