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Taliban isn’t letting charter flights leave Afghanistan, officials say

Multiple planes that are ready to take American citizens and green card holders out of the country are being denied permission to leave by the Taliban, congressional and NGO sources told CBS News.

Excerpts of an email from the State Department to members of congress viewed by CBS News acknowledged that charter flights are still on the ground at the Mazar-i-Sharif airstrip in northern Afghanistan and have permission to land in Doha “if and when the Taliban agrees to takeoff.”

“The Taliban is basically holding them hostage to get more out of the Americans,” a senior congressional source told CBS News.

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.

CBS News has not been able to corroborate those numbers, but three other sources confirmed there are Americans in the area waiting to evacuate through charter flights.

The planes are not currently loaded. The passengers are being held nearby, because the Taliban won’t let them into the airport, according to a senior congressional source.

“The U.S. airfield in Qatar that has been standing by, ready to receive, is now beginning to pack up,” Marina LeGree, the group’s executive director, told CBS News. “We hope visibility will add pressure to force a solution. Six days of talks are not encouraging.”

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