Antony Blinken met with Afghan refugees at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Wednesday as the administration continues to deal with the bungled troop withdrawal that is now leading to the displacement of thousands of Afghans.
It now appears the administration is looking to take the human approach as an image emerged Wednesday of the secretary of State showing a picture of his children to a young Afghan refugee outside Hangar 5 for evacuation operations at Ramstein Air Base.
The State Department is facing criticism after it was revealed in an email link that the agency prevented several private flights from leaving Afghanistan with U.S. citizens and Afghan allies on board.
The trip to Germany came after Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with leaders in Doha, Qatar, which is acting as another third-party country for Afghan refugee processing before they are resettled in the U.S.
Blinken was also pictured there touring a base in Doha being used as a processing center with hundreds of cots lining the floor of a building.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken showed a young Afghan refugee at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Wednesday an image of his kids on his iPhone
Blinken met with refugees at the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein, Germany on Wednesday as the State Department faces criticism after leaked emails show it refused to let privately chartered planes land at the Doha, Qatar U.S. military base, even if they have Americans on board
Blinken went to Ramstein (pictured) after visitng the Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar earlier this week
The images out of Ramstein on Wednesday show a number of refugees sitting on the floor as they wait to be processed. Many are unaware of their final resettlement destinations, but are expected to come through the Philadelphia and Washington Dulles airports.
Blinken said on Tuesday that Afghan refugees will be vetted on the ‘back end,’ as he claims the withdrawal was too swift and chaotic to vet all Afghan refugees before they were airlifted out.
The administration still insists there are around 100 Americans left to be evacuated, while volunteer groups leading private evacuation efforts and Republicans claim there are more like 500 U.S. citizens still trying to get out.
Six planes chartered to evacuate Americans and allies from Afghanistan were blocked from leaving by the Taliban, it emerged over the weekend.
The State Department also refused to green light privately chartered flights out of Afghanistan that could have evacuated US citizens and Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, leaked emails reportedly show.
Military lawyer and retired Marine Eric Montalvo shared the communications with Fox after he organized some of the flights and now claims the federal government thwarted his rescue effort.
The leaked emails show State officials refusing to allow Montalvo’s privately paid for flights to use US property either inside the country or at one of its many overseas bases, after the Biden administration pledged to do whatever it can to rescue all Americans and as many Afghan allies as possible.
‘No independent charters are allowed’ at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar,’ an email from September 1 says.
‘In fact, no charters are allowed to land at an [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.’
Blinken speaks with refugees who fled Afghanistan and are now waiting processing at the Ramstein Air Base on Wednesday before being transported to a final resettlement destination in the U.S.
Blinken tours the refugee processing center at Al Udeid Air Base on Tuesday
Blinken meets with Afghan all-female robotics team members at Qatar’s Education City Club House
The New York Times reported that a total of 1,000 people – including dozens of American citizens – had been held at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport for nearly a week.
Other passengers hoping to fly include Afghans who hold visas to move to other countries, including the United States.
The official suggested Montalvo look to a different destination country for help.
‘And it can’t be the U.S. either,’ they added.
‘Once you have had discussions with the host/destination country and reached an agreement, they may require some indication from the [US government] that we ‘approve’ of this charter flight.’
The State Department pre-emptively refused to provide that approval but conceded to tell that third country it had ‘no objection’ via the US embassy in that state.
On Sunday, Reuters reported that the delay had been caused by Biden administration officials not telling Taliban leaders it had approved the departures of the chartered flights.
This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows satellite imagery of the Mazar-i-Sharif and grounded planes at the airport in northern Afghanistan on September 3
Tuesday’s revelation comes in stark contrast to Biden administration officials’ denials from around the same time.
State Department spokesman Ned Price dismissed the notion that the US government is preventing charter flights from leaving Afghanistan in a September 2 briefing.
That day Price told reporters the US doesn’t control Afghan airspace and so couldn’t possibly be in a position to grant or deny clearance.
‘The misimpression that is out there that we are preventing or even the idea that we could prevent a charter flight from taking off – that is simply untrue. We could not and we are not,’ Price said.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said on September 2, ‘Anyone who’s suggesting we are preventing these flights, that’s not accurate. We couldn’t prevent a charter flight from taking off.’
But she went on to say the federal government doesn’t have ‘reliable means’ to confirm who is organizing the flights or the status of anyone on board.
The day after the bombshell leaked emails were reportedly sent, top Biden officials said the State Department would not and could not block chartered evacuation flights
The Pentagon said it couldn’t comment on the leaked emails when asked by DailyMail.com.
When asked by DailyMail.com for comment, the State Department referred to comments Secretary of State Blinken made in Qatar on Tuesday.
Blinken addressed the matter of charter flights in a speech with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and top Qatari officials.
‘Many thousands of US citizens, permanent residents, at-risk Afghans who we successfully evacuated and relocated from Kabul have left aboard charter flights,’ Blinken said. ‘Now others are working to arrange more such flights.’
The Biden official said his department is ‘working around the clock with NGOs, with members of Congress and advocacy groups’ to ‘clear any roadblocks that they’ve identified to make sure that charter flights carrying Americans or others to whom we have a special responsibility can depart Afghanistan safely.’
‘Without personnel on the ground, we can’t verify the accuracy of manifests, the identities of passengers, flight plans, or aviation security protocols. So this is a challenge, but one we are determined to work through.’
He also said the Taliban agreed to let people with travel documents go freely.
When asked by DailyMail.com for comment, the State Department only referred to comments Blinken made at a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Qatari officials on Tuesday
Blinken went to Qatar to thank Afghan translators for their dedication to helping US efforts and Qatari officials for their willingness to help with the evacuation
But the State Department’s reported efforts to thwart privately paid for evacuation flights from the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, 260 miles north of Kabul, has stirred bipartisan outrage.
Rep. Mike Waltz sent the department a letter Saturday urging them to help non-governmental organizations clear the flights for takeoff.
He said the non-governmental organizations were willing to share their passenger manifests to allow the U.S. government to conduct ‘appropriate vetting and prioritization.’
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was ‘frustrated, even furious’ at the government’s delay in pulling them out.
‘There will be plenty of time to seek accountability for the inexcusable bureaucratic red tape that stranded so many of our Afghan allies,’ Blumenthal told The Hill. ‘For now, my singular focus remains getting these planes in the air and safely to our airbase in Doha, where they have already been cleared to land.’
Flights chartered by Mercury One, a charity founded by right-wing commentator Glenn Beck, are among those stalled at Mazar-i-Sharif, Newsweek reports.
The six flights chartered by right-wing commentator Glenn Beck’s charity reportedly cost $750,000 each
Beck’s fleet of two Airbus 340s and four Boeing 737s from Kam Air are sitting empty in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif as their passengers – including at least 142 Americans – are forced to hide as the bureaucratic red tape is hashed out.
An exasperated flight organizer hit out at the State Department over the fiasco, saying: ‘They need to be held accountable for putting these people’s lives in danger.’
Other groups trying to organize their own chartered flights have also hit out at the State Department, with Rick Clay from private rescue firm PlanB claiming the organization is the only thing stopping him fulfilling his brief.
Two other organizers have also torn into the Anthony Blinken-headed department, with one – who didn’t give their name – telling Fox: ‘This is zero place to be negotiating with American lives. Those are our people standing on the tarmac and all it takes is a f****ing phone call.
‘If one life is lost as a result of this, the blood is on the White House’s hands. The blood is on their hands. 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.’
One of those organizers also claimed that any rescue charter flights wishing to land at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar, must first seek State Department approval, leaving them with a further bureaucratic delay.