Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Afghan refugees on Wednesday at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, as part of a charm offensive amid the revelation that the State Department refused to give chartered planes clearance to fly out of the country, stranding American citizens.
Images show Blinken stooping down to show a young Afghan boy images of his own children on his phone and stopping to talk to a couple who were holding a baby.
While at Ramstein, Blinken also toured a processing center that is part of the massive operation to move the evacuees from Afghanistan to their destinations in the US and met with employees from the State Department, the Defense Department and other government agencies that are assisting the relocation efforts.
“I got a chance to see the whole flow of the operation, and what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished in such a short period of time under such extreme circumstances is truly, truly remarkable,” Blinken told the staffers, according to the State Department.
Later Wednesday, he will meet with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
About 34,000 Afghan refugees have landed at Ramstein and about 22,000 have left the base for other locations.
Before arriving in Germany, Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to Qatar, where they thanked the Gulf state’s leaders for helping with the evacuation efforts.
But the visit has been overshadowed by the revelation in emails obtained by Fox News that the State Department refused to approve the departure of chartered planes from Afghanistan ferrying Americans and Afghans out of the country.
In a Sept. 1 email sent to Eric Montalvo, an attorney and former US Marine who organized a number of flights, a State Department official informed him that any flights heading to Europe or the Middle East for processing “may require some indication from the USG [US government] that we ‘approve’ of this charter flight” in order to land.
“DOS [State Department] will not provide an approval, but we will provide a ‘no objection’ to the destination country government via the U.S. Embassy in that country,” it continued.
Montalvo’s law firm chartered a flight for 300 people that traveled from Afghanistan to Doha, Qatar, on Aug. 31, according to the New York Times.
The flight irked some US military and diplomatic personnel who didn’t want to land the plane because it lacked “status,” but it touched down anyway.
The State Department’s email to Montalvo informed him that “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 [not] allow charters to land.”
“You need to find another destination country, and it can’t be the U.S. either,” the email continued.
Last week, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) accused the State Department of blocking a rescue mission he sponsored at Hamid Karzai International Airport outside Kabul by refusing to allow the plane to land.
Mullin said the Biden administration will have blood on its hands if anything happens to the Americans left behind.
“[T]here’s going to be some that’s going to die because of the failure from President Biden, I promise you that,” Mullin told Fox News host Bret Baier.
“At some point they’re [the Taliban] going to lose patience and aren’t going to keeping letting us drive past these checkpoints and paying them off … and when I say that blood is on his hands, that means President Biden’s hands, I mean that with everything in my heart. It’s his fault,” he said.