The White House admitted on Wednesday that flights stranded in Afghanistan, holding Americans as well as those believed to be Afghan refugees, were not under the control of the US.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked by Fox News' Peter Doocy about the charter flights stuck on the ground in Afghanistan. "The Secretary of State said there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground," Doocy remarked. "You just said we are not on the ground."
"You're right," Psaki replied.
"Whose fault is that?" Doocy asked.
"I don't think this is about fault here. I think what people want to understand is what we're doing to help address it. There's a handful of Americans," Psaki said, "and I'm sure you're not suggesting we should have flights with hundreds of people. We don't know who they are, where there's no security protocols."
"There's a handful of Americans who we are also in touch with," Psaki said, "and we are working to help get evacuated from Afghanistan. But decisions you have to make in the federal government are not 'yes, and no decisions' or as simple as what you're laying out here. What we're evaluating and looking at is how to keep people on our military bases safe, while also getting these US citizens, dual citizens, people who are prepared to leave Afghanistan, able to leave. At the same time, we don't think we're not going to allow flights that have hundreds of people who don't know who they are, who haven't been security protocol through security protocols, where we haven't seen the manifest to land on US military bases."
Doocy asked about the lack of "diversity" in the Taliban's newly formed government. "There are now more terrorists wanted by the FBI in the new Afghan government than there are women. Does the President think that is a foreign policy success?"
"Well, first of all, no one in this administration, not the president nor anyone on the national security team would suggest that the Taliban are respected and valued members of the global community," Psaki said.
"They have not earned that in any way. And we're not we've never assessed that. This is a a caretaker cabinet. That does include four former imprisoned Taliban fighters we have not validated that we have not conveyed we're going to recognize it. What we're working to do, and nor are we rushing to recognition. There's a lot they have to do before that. What we're working to do is to engage with them because they oversee and control Afghanistan right now, to get American citizens, legal permanent residents, as SIV applicants out of Afghanistan. We have to engage with them."
"Their new acting interior minister is a Haqqani Network terrorist he's wanted for a bombing that killed six people," Doocy pushed back, "including an American is believed to have participated in cross border attacks against US troops. There's a $10 million bounty on his head, why are we engaging?"
"Should we not?" Psaki asked. "Should we not talk to the people who are overseeing Afghanistan and just leave it and not get the rest of the American citizens out?"
"What are you waiting for them to do?" Doocy asked. "They just formed their government? Are you waiting for something? You said that we're not going to rush to recognition that means that there could be recognition."
"As we've said, many times the international community is watching the United States is watching. It's whether they let people depart the country who want to depart, whether they treat women across the country as they have committed to treat them and how they behave and operate. And therefore we're not moving toward recognition. At the same time. We're dealing with a reality world here. We have to engage in order to get American citizens and others out of the country."
Earlier in the press conference, Psaki was asked about the planes. "I understand State is leading on this," a reporter asked. "But you guys have made clear you're paying very close attention to consistency in the country. I'm trying to square where things actually stand. The Secretary of State said a couple of times it was a documentation issue. And US Senator Richard Blumenthal pushed back precipitously on that today. And the Secretary of State said the Taliban are not permitting the charter flights to leave precisely on them. What's your understanding of the holdup? And if the Taliban is preventing them, what levers do you have right now?"
"Well, there are a couple pieces are true here," Psaki said. "So one is: we are continuing to press the Taliban, the Secretary of State is, to do more to abide by allowing American citizens, individuals with who are legal permanent residents, and individuals with proper documentation to depart the country."
"It is also true that we don't have a role in preventing flights from taking off, we are not on the ground. So that is not something the US government is doing," she said. "But at the same time, some of these planes and some of the issues is: where are they going to land? So a number of these planes, they may have a handful of American citizens, but they may have several 100 individuals where we don't have manifests for them."
"We don't know what the security protocols are for them," Psaki said. "We don't know what their documentation is. And there is a fundamental question, and this is one of the hard choices you face and government. Are we going to allow a plane with hundreds of people where we don't know who they are? We don't know what security protocols have been put in place, to land on a US military base? And there are reasonable questions, justified questions, I think, as to why we wouldn't do that."
"And so right now, there are some charter planes that are taking off," she said. "We do have to make evaluations about the safety and security and protocols in place as planes are landing on military bases. And there are some challenges as it relates to documentation where a number of people may not have documentation, some for good reason, because they're trying to depart Afghanistan. But that is something we're working through these individually these handful of American citizens. We are also in touch with they are not the majority of these flights, far from it. It is a small number of American citizens who are we're talking about on these charter flights."