About 200 people including Americans flew out on the first international passenger flight out of Kabul since the US military withdrew last month, The New York Times reports.
The first plane, a Qatar Airways flight to Doha, brought more than 100 foreigners, including Americans, Canadians, and others. Qatar, which has led negotiations between the US and the Taliban, declared that the Kabul airport is officially reopened.
“I can clearly say that this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan as Kabul Airport is now operational,” said Dr. Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, a special envoy from Qatar.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid thanked Qatar for helping to reopen the airport and for flying in 50 tons of aid to the country on Thursday. He said the reopening was an “opportunity to call on all Muslim and international countries to lend a helping hand to the Afghan people and start delivering humanitarian aid.”
The passengers went through the normal airport routine to board the flight, a stark contrast to the chaos at the airport weeks earlier when countless people seeking to flee the country after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul rushed the airport and clung on to departing planes.
Taliban officials have vowed to let foreigners and Afghans with dual citizenship to leave, including some that were on the Thursday flight. But the Taliban has also said that they would not allow tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify for special emergency visas to leave.
But not all evacuations:
Though the Taliban has allowed Qatar and Turkey to resume operations at the airport, dozens of Americans and hundreds of Afghans are stranded in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif after the Taliban refused to let them take off.
The Taliban claim that the passengers lack the required paperwork to leave while some congressional Republicans have alleged they are effectively being held “hostage.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday blamed the Taliban for the delay.
“The Taliban are not permitting the charter flights to depart,” he said. “They claim that some of the passengers do not have the required documentation. While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground without an airport with normal security procedures in place, we are going to do everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground.”