About 100 Americans Left in Afghanistan, WH Says as Taliban Holds Up Planes With Evacuees

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain estimated Sunday that around 100 Americans are still in Afghanistan, amid reports that several planes attempting to evacuate people from the country have been halted by the Taliban.

In an interview with CNN's State of the Union Sunday, Klain said the White House is in touch with all of the Americans identified in Afghanistan on a "regular basis," and assured viewers that individuals who want to come home will be given the opportunity to do so.

"Obviously, we're hopeful that, in the coming days, the Qataris will be able to resume air service out of Kabul. And, if they do, we're obviously going to look to see if Americans can be part of those flights. We are going to find ways to get them—the ones that want to leave—to get them out of Afghanistan," he said.

"Many of them have family members, many want to stay, but the ones who want to leave we will get them out," Klain said.

Klain's statements come on the same day that the Associated Press reported that at least four planes set to evacuate several hundred people from the airport in Mazar-e-Sharif, the country's fourth largest city, have been halted by the Taliban for days.

According to the AP, officials at the airport said those passengers primarily include Afghans who do not have passports or visas to leave the country, but many who worked for companies allied with the U.S. and German militaries.

However, Texas Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made conflicting statements on Sunday by saying that the planes include American citizens who are being held hostage by the Taliban "for demands."

Speaking to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, McCaul said there are six planes at the airport that have been unable to evacuate as the Taliban work to demand "more and more, whether it be cash or legitimacy as the government of Afghanistan."

"This is really, Chris, turning into a hostage situation, where they're not going to allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America," McCaul said.

Sources told AP that those who have been unable to leave are waiting for updates on their evacuation status in hotel rooms and restaurants, while McCaul said that individuals are being held at the airport.

Newsweek was unable to independently verify the claims made by McCaul, but has contacted the White House and McCaul's office for further comment.

However, a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek on Sunday that following the full withdrawal of American troops on August 31, the U.S. no longer has the means to "confirm the basic details of charter flights."

"We do not have personnel on the ground, we do not have air assets in the country, we do not control the airspace—whether over Afghanistan or elsewhere in the region," the State Department said in a statement.

"Given these constraints, we also do not have a reliable means to confirm the basic details of charter flights, including who may be organizing them, the number of U.S. citizens and other priority groups on-board, the accuracy of the rest of the manifest, and where they plan to land, among many other issues."

Afghanistan Evacuations
The White House said Sunday that 100 Americans are estimated to still be in Afghanistan, amid reports that several planes with evacuees have been halted by the Taliban. Here, U.S. soldiers stand on the tarmac as a U.S. Air Force aircraft (L) prepares for takeoff from the airport in Kabul on August 30. AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Nonetheless, the State Department added that the U.S. is prepared to continue helping citizens, allies and at-risk Afghans evacuate the country, while holding the Taliban to its promise to allow people to freely depart from the country.

"As with all Taliban commitments, we are focused on deeds not words, but we remind the Taliban that the entire international community is focused on whether they live up to their commitments," the spokesperson said.

Ahead of the American troop withdrawal, the U.S. military evacuated some 6,000 American citizens and over 124,000 civilians from Afghanistan. However, in the days following, there have been reports that Americans and Afghans left behind are being held in the country and sought out by the Taliban.