Multiple congressional offices plan to ignore a Thursday warning from the State Department telling them to cease “uncoordinated messaging” with Americans and U.S. allies in Afghanistan, with one congressional aide telling Fox News evacuation efforts need to be “all hands on deck.”
“[W]e are and will continue to” help Americans evacuate Afghanistan, a congressional aide told Fox News. The aide also confirmed that the State Department message was sent to Senate offices.
“[S]tate’s been doing some incredible work but this is an all hands on deck moment,” the aide said.
The State Department’s warning came just hours before the attacks near the Kabul airport Thursday. It specifically warned staff against directing people toward the airport in light of terror threats which came to fruition Thursday in the form of two explosions that killed at least 12 American service members. But the message also warned more broadly against unilateral efforts from congressional offices.
“All staff engaging in this type of uncoordinated messaging to people on the ground must cease due to the security situation,” the State Department message said.
In this frame grab from video, people attend to a wounded man near the site of a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. Two suicide bombers and gunmen have targeted crowds massing near the Kabul airport, in the waning days of a massive airlift that has drawn thousands of people seeking to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. (AP)
But a separate Capitol Hill source actively involved in evacuating Afghans on Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) told Fox News after the attacks that they are not going to listen to the State Department’s guidance to cease “uncoordinated messaging” to SIVs trying to flee Afghanistan.
The source said that a network of congressional offices has been working with thousands of people in order to fill the void of how the Biden administration has handled the Afghanistan evacuation. When many SIVs are instructed to call the State Department, all they get is an automated voicemail.
Congressional offices are working to secure overnight safe houses for some people following the explosions, the source told Fox News. One individual chief of staff has communicated with at least 300 SIVs in recent days and got about 150 out of Afghanistan.
The office of Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., which has also been working on helping evacuations out of Afghanistan, also said it will continue helping with evacuations.
“Congressman Buck’s office is doing everything we can to provide updated information to American citizens stranded in Afghanistan. Rep. Buck is tremendously grateful for the brave U.S. forces assisting on the ground. We need to get every U.S. citizen home safe,” a spokesperson for Buck said.
The White House maintains that the executive branch is continuing its evacuation efforts, noting that planes continue to leave the Kabul airport. But a source briefed on the situation in Kabul said that as the military aims to pack up by Aug. 31 on President Biden’s orders it is “[a]lmost a certainty that Americans will be left behind. They will have to be extracted after-the-fact through either Taliban negotiation or unconventional means.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News. The State Department canceled its press briefing Thursday. President Biden, meanwhile, has yet to address the attacks in more than five hours since the Pentagon first confirmed them.
Biden will address the American fatalities on Thursday evening.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Peter Doocy and Jacqui Heinrich contributed to this report.