Commercial Flight Departs Afghanistan

First Commercial Flight Departs Afghanistan Since U.S Exit With More Than 100 Foreigners

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The first international commercial flight from Kabul carried more than 100 people out of Afghanistan with cooperation from the Taliban, in the first such departure since a U.S.-led evacuation ended more than a week ago.

The Qatar Airways flight landed in Doha on September 9, marking yet another example of complex cooperation between the West and the new rulers in Kabul after the former insurgents helped coordinate last month’s chaotic U.S.-led airlift that left thousands of at-risk Afghans and some foreign nationals behind.

The White House described the commercial flight as “a positive first step” from the Taliban, which have pledged to allow foreigners and Afghans with travel documents to leave the country if they desire.

“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents,” the White House said in a statement. “They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step.”

“We will continue these efforts to facilitate the safe and orderly travel of American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghans who worked for us and wish to leave Afghanistan,” the White House said.

Ten U.S. citizens and 11 legal U.S. residents were on the flight, State Department spokesman Ned Price said. Earlier, the White House said that there were roughly 100 U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan. Not all want to leave Afghanistan at the moment.

Other passengers included Canadian, Hungarian, Ukrainian, German, and British citizens.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked Qatar, where the United States moved diplomats from its shuttered embassy in Kabul, for facilitating the flight. The Taliban has its political office in Doha.

“We welcome the Taliban’s actions in facilitating this flight as part of their commitment to allow those with travel documents who wish to leave to do so,” Blinken said.

U.S. officials have been in regular contact with the Taliban and “have stressed that additional steps such as these will be similarly positively viewed by the international community,” Blinken said.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani also thanked the Taliban for helping get Kabul airport operational.

Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani rejected the label of “evacuation” for the September 9 flight.

“Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight, everyone has tickets and boarding passes,” Al-Qahtani said, according to Al Jazeera. “Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan.”

Qatari and Turkish technical teams are working to get the Kabul airport fully operational.

Although international flights have flown in and out with officials, technicians, and aid in recent days, the Qatar Airways flight was the first such civilian flight since the chaotic evacuation of 124,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans that followed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August.

Hundreds of other Afghans who claim they are at risk, including those who worked for the U.S.-led international coalition, have gathered for more than a week in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, waiting for permission to board flights. The Taliban has said it would let passengers with valid travel documents leave, but that many of those at the northern airport did not have such papers.

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With reporting by Reuters, AP, RFE, AFP, Al Jazeera

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