The Taliban agreed, Thursday, to allow commercial flights of 200 “westerners,” including some Americans, to depart from Kabul airport — the first such departures since the United States pulled out of Afghanistan last month.
“Scores” of westerners boarded Qatar Airlines flights to Doha, Qatar, according to The Associated Press, and at least 200 more individuals are expected to be allowed to leave, though it is not clear whether any of those evacuees will be Afghan nationals with special visas or green cards.
It is also unclear whether, among the “westerners” allowed to leave Kabul Thursday, were those Americans waiting to depart on a series of flights out of Mazar-i-Sharif airport — flights that were delayed, according to reports, because the Taliban had been asking for concessions, including increased financial support.
“Some 200 foreigners, including Americans, left Afghanistan on a commercial flight out of Kabul on Thursday, the first such large-scale departure since U.S. and other forces completed their frantic withdrawal over a week ago,” AP reported. “The Qatar Airways flight to Doha marked a breakthrough in the bumpy coordination between the U.S. and Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers. A dayslong standoff over charter planes at another airport has left dozens of passengers stranded.”
“A senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media, provided the number of Westerners on the Qatar flight and said two senior Taliban officials helped facilitate the departure — the new foreign minister and deputy prime minister,” The Associated Press noted. “Americans, U.S. green card holders and other nationalities, including Germans, Hungarians and Canadians, were aboard, the official said.”
The flights pose a new set of problems for coalition allies who do not hold green cards. Although the Taliban has agreed to allow Afghan nationals who want to leave the country to depart on outgoing flights if they have the appropriate paperwork, Afghans in possession of clearance remain “skeptical” and the Taliban appear to be deeply involved in the departure process, patrolling the airport and repeatedly checking papers, according to reports.
The current Afghan prime minister, who belongs to the Taliban, urged Afghans affiliated with coalition forces to stay and suggested those who departed on emergency flights should return, Fox News added. Many of those waiting to board flights at Mazar-i-Sharif airport were vulnerable Afghans.
It reportedly “remained unclear whether charter flights from the airport in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where dozens of Americans and hundreds of Afghans were waiting to leave the country, would be allowed to fly,” The New York Times said.
The flights do appear to have come at a price. According to a Taliban spokesman, Qatar flew “in 50 tons of aid on Thursday morning,” before the passengers were allowed to depart, per The New York Times. The same spokesman also suggested that the flights out of Kabul airport presented an “opportunity to call on all Muslim and international countries to lend a helping hand to the Afghan people and start delivering humanitarian aid.”