Rep. Michael McCaul Claims Taliban Holding Americans Hostage 'for Demands' in Afghanistan

Texas Congressman Michael McCaul said Sunday that the Taliban is preventing Americans from departing Afghanistan.

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said there are six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif—Afghanistan's fourth-largest city—with American citizens and interpreters whom the Taliban are holding hostage "for demands."

The flights have been cleared, but the Taliban is not letting them leave the airport, he said.

McCaul told Fox News host Chris Wallace that he is concerned the Taliban will 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.

He voiced concern that Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is going to recommend the Biden administration recognizes the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, he said.

McCaul said hundreds of American citizens were "left behind enemy lines" and unable to leave following the August 31 deadline. He said almost all of the interpreters who helped the U.S. were not even let into the airport.

A State Department spokesperson said in a statement to Newsweek that because they do not have personnel on the ground, air assets in the country or control the airspace, they 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."

"As the Secretary has said, the Department is prepared to help U.S. citizens, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans to whom we have a special commitment depart the country, if they so choose," the statement read.

The department will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely exit Afghanistan.

"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."

McCaul also attacked the Biden administration over the heavily criticized withdrawal.

"I've said all along this president has blood on his hands, and this week we had 13 servicemen and women come home, flag-draped coffins, at Dover [Air Force Base]," he said. "This problem is going to get worse, not better. We have left them behind."

Other Republicans have also been sharply critical of the U.S. withdrawal. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called it the "biggest" failure in his lifetime. Additionally, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the withdrawal.

In the days following the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan, there have been other reports signaling concern over Americans left behind. A pregnant woman from California who is trapped in the capital city of Kabul told Voice of America Friday the Taliban is hunting Americans and going door-to-door seeking U.S. citizens. The woman, who was identified as Nasria, said she and her husband tried to get on an evacuation flight, but the Taliban would not let her pass despite having a U.S. passport.

There are concerns about human rights in the now Taliban-led nation, as well. On Saturday, the Taliban using gunfire broke up a protest led by Afghan women demanding equality. The group had also reportedly announced that people found guilty of stealing will have their hands cut off, in accordance with Sharia law.

Newsweek reached out to the White House, the State Department and McCaul's office for comment. This story will be updated with any response.

Updated 12:37 PM ET, with additional information.

Updated 3:47 PM ET, with a statement from the State Department.

Rep. Michael McCaul on Afghanistant
Texas Congressman Michael McCaul said Sunday that the Taliban is preventing Americans from departing Afghanistan. Here, McCaul (R-TX), speaks at a bipartisan news conference on the ongoing Afghanistan evacuations, at the U.S. Capitol on August 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images