Frustration on Capitol Hill with the State Department continues to mount, as Americans and Afghan allies remain stranded in Afghanistan more than two weeks after the U.S. completed its withdrawal from the country.
A call between State Department staffers and congressional staffers on Wednesday quickly grew tense, as staffers from both parties grew exasperated with the agency’s responses to their questions about Afghanistan evacuations, congressional sources tell Fox News.
“The general take was extreme frustration by the Hill staffers about all the questions they asked not having strong answers,” one source on the call told Fox News.
The State Department has told congressional offices to dial back the calls and emails they’re sending to the agency about Americans and Afghan allies they’re trying to get out of the country, two senior Hill staffers told Fox News.
The staffers spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing already contentious relationships with the State Department.
“This is an emergency to the Americans being held hostage. This is an emergency to the members and their staff who are trying to get them out. It’s not an emergency to the State Department,” one senior staffer told Fox News. That staffer described the State Department’s handling of stranded Americans as “the DMV-ification of a hostage crisis,” referring to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
A State Department spokesperson disputed that the call was contentious.
“The Biden Administration thinks this is a story they want to go away. We know it’s a race against time to free American hostages and reunite them with their families,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told Fox News.
The Biden administration’s delaying of evacuation efforts has frustrated members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said on Sept. 6 that he has “been deeply frustrated, even furious, at our government’s delay and inaction” in helping charter flights gain clearance to depart Mazar-e Sharif airport.
Eleven days later, not much has changed.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday that charter flights still have not been allowed to leave the airport but said that his agency is not to blame.
“We have been very clear that the individuals who have expressed a desire and a willingness to leave via Mazar-e-Sharif should be allowed to leave the country. The fact that, to my knowledge, a charter flight has not departed Mazar has nothing to do with anything that the State Department has or has not done, and in fact, quite the contrary,” Price said.
“The State Department, as we have said, has pulled every lever available to us.”