Leaked Email Reveal State Dept Blocked Private Rescue Flights From Afghanistan

Leaked Email Reveal State Dept Blocked Private Rescue Flights From Afghanistan

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
September 8, 2021

The State Department refused to approve privately chartered flights carrying American citizens and Afghan allies departing out of Afghanistan  — obstructing ongoing evacuation efforts to rescue the countless Americans abandoned by President Biden's broken promise, according to a leaked email obtained by Fox News.

Eric Montalvo, a military lawyer and former U.S Marine organized a series of private flights to get the evacuees safely out of Afghanistan, but the State Department is solely hampering the ongoing rescue efforts with bureaucratic roadblocks by refusing to formally approve chartered planes from leaving the Taliban-controlled country. The revelation is a stark contrast to Biden's pledge to continue rescuing all Americans and as many Afghan allies after fully withdrawing U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in a hastily chaotic manner before Biden's self-imposed deadline of August 31.

The bombshell leaked email dated Sept. 1 sent to Montalvo revealed the inexplicable delays from the State Department after the official explicitly stated that private charter flights, even if those on board the flights contained stranded American citizens and Afghan allies, would not be allowed to land at military bases, making different excuses such as lacking ground resources to fully verify flight manifests.

"No independent charters are allowed to land at [Al Udeid Air Base], the military airbase you mentioned in your communication with Samantha Power. In fact, no charters are allowed to land at a [sic] DoD base, and most if not all countries in the Middle Eastern region, with the exception of perhaps Saudi Arabia, will allow charters to land," the State Department official wrote.

The official in the email informed Montalvo to look to a different "destination country" for his organized private charters to land but warned not to look to the United States military bases as being one of the other options.

Despite the Biden State Department recklessly endangering the evacuations efforts by not granting an official approval needed to get evacuees that were left behind safely out of Afghanistan, the official vowed they would not obstruct with the clearance that was secured without the U.S. government help for the flights to land in the destination country.

"Once you have had discussions with the host/destination country and reached an agreement, they may require some indication from the USG [US government] that we 'approve' of this charter flight. DOS [State Department] will not provide an approval, but we will provide a 'no objection' to the destination country government via the U.S. Embassy in that country," the email from the state official read.

Since the final U.S. military flights departed Kabul’s International airport, just 24 hours after Biden abruptly ended the chaotic evacuation efforts from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, Veteran-led rescue groups, private citizen organizers, and non-governmental organizations have scrambled to organize private charters flights out of Taliban-controlled territory for the thousands of allies and Americans left behind.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Montalvo’s law firm — Federal Practice Group, had privately chartered a flight with 300 people from Afghanistan and landed in Doha, Qatar, on Aug. 31. The private flight reportedly caused dismay among diplomatic personnel and the State Department over "concerns" that they did not "facilitated landing rights" for the chartered plane orchestrated by private individuals because "it didn’t have 'status.'"

The Aug. 31 efforts led to the State Department impeding future rescue flights coordinated by Montalvo and other private individuals, despite the Biden administration officials' denying the accusation as they look to place the blame on others. The story from the Biden administration changes daily — from blaming incorrect travel documentation to security risks, aviation security protocols, and now claiming it is actually the Taliban who are holding back charter planes from departing.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed earlier this week during an interview with "Fox News Sunday" that six airplanes were cleared by the State Department but haven't departed out of Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport over "the last couple of days" due to the Taliban "holding them hostage for demands right now."

"State has cleared these flights, and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport," McCaul said. "These planes and they’re not allowed to leave. We know the reason why is because the Taliban wants something in exchange. This is really turning into a hostage situation where they’re not going to allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition for the United States of America."

The U.S doesn’t have any troops or diplomats in Afghanistan following the pullout at the end of August, leaving the Biden administration with little to no leverage over the Taliban other than empty threats.

While lawmakers are blamed the Taliban, other groups or private citizens involved in evacuation efforts on the ground are putting the onus solely on the State Department for holding up the flights. Earlier this week, ​Rick Clay, ​who runs PlanB, a private rescue group, told Fox News that the "State Department is the only thing preventing the flights he's organizing from leaving Afghanistan," noting they are making excuses and causing bureaucratic delays for him to obtain clearance to land in Doha, Qatar.

Two other American individuals separately involved in evacuation efforts echoed Clay's sentiment, saying the State Department is obstructing efforts because they are "embarrassed that private individuals are rescuing Americans" to escape Afghanistan since the Biden administration left them stranded following the botched withdrawal.

"It is not the Taliban that is holding this up — as much as it sickens me to say that — it is the United States government​," the American individual said. ​

Another organizer claimed about 1,000 people, including Americans, are being held in Afghanistan for days awaiting the State Department to grant clearance for their charter flights to leave. The organizer told Reuters that the State Department failed to tell the Taliban of the approval for their flight departures from Mazar-i-Sharif airport.

The true number of Americans stranded behind enemy lines is unknown, nor have the exact number of Afghan allies who received or applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV). Immediately after the final withdrawal concluding the end of the 20-year war, the Biden administration placed the number between 100-200, but Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told the AP last week that Biden is miscalculating how many Americans remain trapped, saying "the number of U.S. citizens still there and wanting to leave is closer to 500," But if family members of those trapped Americans are included, the overall "number of people could be as high as 1,000."

Meanwhile, the State Department earlier this week attempted to steal full credit for a private mission conducted by a private team of military veterans to rescue a Texas mom and her kids, despite stonewalling the efforts. Cory Mills, a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran and GOP candidate running in the Florida 7th Congressional district said the State Department "exaggerating its role" and had "little" to do with the rescue mission until his team completed the most dangerous part of getting Mariam and her three children across the Afghanistan border. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), who helped organize the mission with Mills, blasted the State Department’s false claim as a "flat out lie," claiming the department originally said it could not assist in the evacuation "in any way."

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

Subscribe to the newsletter everyone in Florida is reading.