The ranking member on the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has instructed the Biden administration to hand over internal information about its decision to reportedly prevent a busload of Americans from entering Afghanistan’s airport to be evacuated from the war-torn country.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) is using his oversight authority to investigate allegations that U.S. military leaders prevented U.S. citizens and others from entering the Kabul airport as part of emergency evacuation efforts coordinated by nonprofit groups.
Johnson says he has been "receiving reports that contradict the Biden administration’s narrative and are troubling to say the least," according to an information request obtained by the Washington Free Beacon that was sent on Friday to the Biden Pentagon and State Department. This includes reports that "a group of over 400 individuals including U.S. citizens were turned away at the airport" on Thursday and told by a U.S. military commander that the "rescue is over."
Johnson is one of several congressional foreign policy leaders demanding the Biden administration turn over information related to its ongoing emergency evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan. Americans waiting to be rescued contradict the Biden administration’s claims the mission is running smoothly. The administration maintains that it can rescue every American stranded in the country by an Aug. 31 deadline set by the ruling Taliban and agreed to by the United States. It is unclear, however, how many U.S. citizens are scrambling to leave.
Johnson is investigating reports by military veteran Chad Robichaux that rescue efforts coordinated with outside nonprofit groups are being met with resistance by American military officials on the ground. Robichaux said he organized a busload of 400 evacuees on Thursday and got them to the airport, only to be met by a commander of the 82nd Airborne Division who "told them to get back on their buses and turn around because ‘the rescue was over,’" Johnson wrote. "It is not clear what happened to the Americans and the other individuals after they left the airport."
Robichaux, in an interview late last week with Newsmax, said his "team members were met by the commander of the 82nd Airborne Brigade and asked 'what were they doing here? Who did we think we are bringing these people into the base?'"
The senator wants the Pentagon and State Department to explain in detail what Biden administration policies led to this confrontation.
"It’s hard to believe that any U.S. military official would deny Americans the ability to evacuate Afghanistan," Johnson wrote. "What generalized or specific order was given to the commander that caused him to take this alleged action? Where did this order originate?"
He also wants to know the names of any military leaders who issued these orders and for the administration to explain if it is aware of the event in question. Johnson says a full investigation into the matter is needed.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), whose office has been working to evacuate several families stuck in the country, said on Sunday that airport entry points are being shut down by the Taliban.
"We are guiding American citizens to known Kabul airport entry points, but they are being repeatedly turned back by the Taliban," Issa said. "The situation has deteriorated to where entry points our people passed through only days ago are now impeded by the Taliban. If this administration allows our people to be blocked when they are this close to freedom, that is on the president’s shoulders and no one else’s."
A State Department spokesman, speaking only on background, said on Sunday that nearly 5,500 Americans have been flown out of Afghanistan so far, including around 50 in the last day.
The State Department claims that only 250 or so Americans informed them they are still trying to leave the country. U.S. officials on the ground continue "to coordinate assistance around the clock for this group, while taking the current security situation into account," the spokesman said.
Another 280 individuals, the State Department claims, "remain undecided about whether to leave the country or have told us they do not intend to depart."
The State Department’s accounting could mean that thousands of Americans have not been in contact with the administration or cannot be found.
U.S. military forces on Sunday conducted an unmanned airstrike on a vehicle belonging to the ISIS terror group, which took responsibility for a deadly bombing on Thursday that killed American military personnel and many others.
Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the strike eliminated a new ISIS threat to the airport.
"We are confident we successfully hit the target," Urban said. "Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material."