American citizens left behind in Afghanistan are reportedly being held "hostage" by the Taliban, who purportedly are seeking "more out of Americans" before releasing planes that have permission to land in Qatar.
What are the details?
CBS News correspondent Christina Ruffini reported Sunday that "multiple flights are being held on the ground at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport in Northern Afghanistan... by the Taliban."
An email sent by the State Department to members of Congress reportedly explained the flights held by the Taliban have permission to land in Doha, Qatar — but only "if and when the Taliban agrees to takeoff."
"The Taliban is basically holding them hostage to get more out of the Americans," a congressional source told CBS News.
More from Ruffini:
The group Ascend, an NGO that teaches young women leadership through athletics, told CBS News they have two planes that have been waiting for six days ready to take between 600 and 1200 people -- including 19 American citizens and two permanent residents.
"The U.S. airfield in Qatar that has been standing by, ready to receive, is now beginning to pack up," Marina LeGree, the executive director, told CBS News. "We hope visibility will add pressure to force a solution. Six days of talks are not encouraging."
The State Department advised members of Congress to tell groups seeking to evacuate out of Mazar-i-Sharif that the US does not have personnel on the ground in that location and does not control the airspace. Congressional and NGO sources say here are at least two physical plans on the ground and six more with approved clearance. The obstacle is the Taliban — which controls the airport and is not letting people board or the planes take off.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed CBS News' reporting.
During an interview on "Fox News Sunday," McCaul described the situation as a hostage crisis.
"In fact we have six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif airport, six airplanes, with American citizens on them as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now," McCaul explained.
"State has cleared these flights, and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport," he added.
When pressed by show host Chris Wallace what demands the Taliban is making, McCaul cited money and diplomatic legitimacy as two possibilities, but did not offer specifics.
"This is really, Chris, turning into a hostage situation where they're not gonna allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America," McCaul said, adding that he fears the Biden administration may grant the Taliban legitimacy and recognize them as the official government of Afghanistan.