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In late August 2021, Snopes readers emailed questions relating to social media posts and statements made by talk radio host Glenn Beck, in which he claimed charitable organizations he founded airlifted thousands of people fleeing the Taliban. His claims came amid frenzied evacuation efforts after the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan, ending a 20-year war.
Beck stated that his charities, The Nazarene Fund and Mercury One, evacuated 5,100 Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities from Afghanistan with the help of donors who, as of Aug. 24, 2021, gave more than $28 million. He posted pictures on Facebook showing people boarding planes.
On Aug. 27, 2021, Beck posted to Instagram a picture of a plane on tarmac, along with a message stating it was "one of the last planes" to leave Kabul airport before a terrorist bombing attack on the same date killed 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
Text accompanying the post reads:
One of the last planes to leave #kabul before the bombings. Praise The Lord. It was full of women, children and families. We will not forget those left behind. Our mission there gets tougher and more dangerous. We also, still have more work to do as now we have 5100 refugees sitting in another country wondering who will claim them? Sadly, but certainly not America. #biden will only take people the cartels will charge, exploit and rape. Certainly, not those other people that are marked for death because of his policies. Does any one see the irony and the pattern of death due to his policies? Anyway, tomorrow I board another plane to help prepare their new home(s) far from the taliban and isis. Due to the state department blocking us seemingly every step of the way, I will only tell you where after the refugees are on the ground. May #God bless the refugees and new home countries and may He heal their land. These refugees are Good and faithful servants that make me embarrassed to call myself Christian. Thanks to everyone who donated to #thenazarenefund .org. By the way, it is important to me that you know that I am personally paying for my and my teams expenses with air travel courtesy of @copelandnetwork - all donated money goes to rescue those in Afghanistan and other persecuted Christians.
So, did Beck's organizations really airlift 5,100 Christians?
We do not currently have enough information to ascertain whether his claim is true.
We reached out with questions about the evacuations to The Nazarene Fund and Mercury One via contact forms on their websites, and tried reaching the Nazarene group's CEO, Tim Ballard, via his other nonprofit organization, Operation Underground Railroad. That group's website says it "gathered the world's experts in extraction operations and in anti-child trafficking efforts to bring an end to child slavery." We didn't get a response from any in time for publication.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson only told us in an email that the U.S. government wasn't directing privately organized charter flights out of Afghanistan, although the flights were being tracked and evacuees flown to third-party countries. The spokesperson didn't answer a follow-up question asking if the State Department tracked flights organized by The Nazarene Fund and whether it had any specifics about those flights.
We attempted to locate independent accounts of Beck's nonprofit organizations' evacuations, but the stories we encountered were largely published by Christian-focused websites and The Blaze, a right-leaning broadcasting network founded by Beck. They rely heavily on statements by Beck and Ballard, without comments from independent sources that would verify or support their claims.
Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service indicate that The Nazarene Fund gained nonprofit status in February 2021. According to the organization's website, it is a separate entity from Mercury One, though the two groups work closely together.
The number of Christians living in Afghanistan is unknown, however they are a tiny minority group. According to the Catholic website Aleteia, estimates "of the number of Christians in Afghanistan vary from a high of 20,000 to possibly as low as 1,000."
Snopes is waiting to hear back from The Nazarene Fund and Mercury One. We will update this fact check if/when we are able to provide more information.
On Sept. 5, 2021, Newsweek magazine reported that six chartered planes set to evacuate 1,000 people, including about 100 Americans, out of Afghanistan were held up due to "negotiations" between the Taliban and the U.S. State Department.
The planes were funded by Beck's Mercury One charity, per the Newsweek report, which cited two unnamed "officials" from a non-governmental organization (NGO). The article didn't name which NGO the officials were from.
In remarks made in Doha, Qatar, during a news conference, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the issue of complications with charter flights and their efforts to fly people out of Afghanistan, although he didn't name any specific organizations. Blinken stated:
On these charter flights, as I mentioned, one of the challenges has been that, as we understand it, there are groups of people who are grouped together, some of whom have the appropriate travel documents – an American passport, a green card, a visa – and others do not. And it’s my understanding that the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document, but they have said that those without valid documents at this point can’t leave. But because all of these people are grouped together, that’s meant that flights have not been allowed to go. We’ve been able to identify a relatively small number of Americans who we believe are seeking to depart from Mazar-e-Sharif with their families.
We have been assured, again, that all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave. And again, we intend to hold the Taliban to that. They’ve upheld that commitment in at least one instance in the last 24 hours with a family that was able to leave through an overland route, and we are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage-like situation in Mazar-e-Sharif. So we have to work through the different requirements, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.