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Qatar Airways Operates First Civilian Flight From Kabul Airport Following U.S. Withdrawal

Qatar Airways Operates First Civilian Flight From Kabul Airport Following U.S. Withdrawal

The first international civilian flight from Kabul International Airport following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last month landed in Qatar on Thursday evening with around 113 passengers including American, British and Canadian citizens onboard. The civilians were allowed to leave despite earlier claims by a senior Taliban official that passengers would not be allowed onboard.

Earlier on Thursday, the Qatar Airways operated Boeing 777-300 had arrived at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport loaded with much-needed aid and medical supplies.

The Persian Gulf state of Qatar had dispatched team of engineers to get the airport operational again within hours of the final U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Qatari team were joined by technical experts from Turkey who have also been assisting the Taliban in getting the airport up and running again.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahed told Bloomberg on Thursday that civilians would only be allowed to leave Afghanistan on flights once the airport was fully operational and regulary scheduled civilian flights had restarted.

The Qatar Airways flight was a one-off charter service and none of the passengers had bought tickets to get onboard. It’s unclear why the Taliban changed their mind and let the foreign citizens to fly out of the country.

Mutlaq al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy to Afghanistan said the airport was “about 90 per cent ready for operations but its reopening is planned gradually”.

“Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight, everyone has tickets and boarding passes,” al-Qahtani said of the flight.

On Tuesday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that commercial air services couldn’t be restored unless the Taliban allowed foreign security contractors to take control of the security operation inside the airport.

“The Taliban may provide security outside of the airport but there is a need to establish security inside the airport that the international community can trust,” Cavusoglu said. “Otherwise, insurance companies may not agree to start flights even if airlines want to do it.” 

Other nationalities onboard Thursday’s flight included Germans and Ukrainians. The passengers will be transported to a special facility in Doha before being evacuated to their respective countries at a later date.

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