US accused of trying to steal credit for Afghan rescue
Republican congressmen Markwayne Mullin and Ronny Jackson helped stage the evacuation Monday of the woman and her three children, who had been left behind when the US military completed its withdrawal.
"The State Department... actually told the embassy in the country not to assist us in any way," Mullin told CNN.
The Oklahoma representative said the mission began two weeks ago when he and Jackson were contacted about the woman, named Mariam, and tried to get the family on one of the last flights out of Kabul.
But he added that the team found itself getting "all types of pushback" from the State Department and found its way blocked at Kabul airport.
"And even though we had her at the gate multiple times, we were on the phone to the State Department over the last two weeks trying to get her out and they wouldn't even open the gate for us," Mullin said.
The team then tried to get the family aboard a private charter flight from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, but the planes were never cleared for departure.
Finally, they were able to travel overland to a neighbouring country that is not being identified to avoid jeopardizing future rescue missions.
The United States says it provided guidance to the group on an overland route and had embassy officials waiting for them once they crossed the border.
A State Department official said the Taliban were aware of the operation and did not interfere.
But Mullin told CNN the team was forced to bribe its way through 20 Taliban checkpoints, paying $500 to $4,000 per person.
Army veteran and Republican congressional candidate Cory Mills, who was on the ground with the family, told Fox News he was informed by the Taliban that "we have no agreement, we have no coordination with the Americans, to allow you to pass."
Mullin says the group had the family at the crossing point for 24 hours before the State Department "was even aware she was there."
"They didn't show up until a few hours... before we got her across. And so for them to say they facilitated it, it is absolutely a lie."
The United States evacuated more than 120,000 US citizens, Afghans and foreigners from Afghanistan in the final weeks before withdrawing from the country.
President Joe Biden has said 90 percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to.
But he has faced mounting pressure amid reports that some 600 to 1,300 people -- including girls and US citizens -- have been prevented for a week from flying out of Mazar-i-Sharif.