On Thursday, a Qatar Airways flight left Hamid Karzai International airport in Kabul for Doha, Qatar, carrying some 200 foreigners, including Americans, marking the first evacuation flight since US and NATO troops left the country in August.
A senior US official, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that two high-ranking Taliban members had helped facilitate the departure. The official confirmed that around 200 were onboard, including Americans, Canadians, Germans and Hungarians.
Shortly before the flight departed, Qatar officials inspected and declared the airport ready for the resumption of international commercial flights. The airport and runway had been damaged in the chaotic US-led evacuation effort in August and required extensive repairs.
“I can clearly say that this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan as Kabul airport is now operational,” said Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani. Qatari and Turkish specialists had been involved in the frantic effort to get the airport ready for commercial flights.
“Everyone has a ticket and boarding passes,” al-Qahtani stated, suggesting that this was indeed a regular flight. He said another flight was due to leave on Friday. “Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan,” he added.
Thursday’s departure is the first evacuation flight since the frenzied military airlift operations which saw more than 100,000 people evacuated from the country following the Taliban’s capture of Kabul and amid an ever-worsening security situation.
169 Afghans and 13 US service members were among the dead when an Islamic State-linked terrorist detonated a suicide bomb outside the airport’s Abbey Gate. Around 30 Taliban members also died in the attack.