The first charter flight to exit Kabul since the Taliban takeover developments in Afghanistan landed in Doha on Thursday, inaugurating the resumption of passenger flights.
Kabul’s airport is now fully operational and flights departing the facility are no longer considered to be evacuations, a Qatari official confirmed to the media on Friday.
“We’re not talking about evacuation anymore. I think we saw a lot of flexibility from the Taliban, they have been so cooperative, they facilitated this trip and yesterday’s trip, there were no barriers, there were no obstacles and we saw the passengers were moving very smoothly from Kabul’s airport,” Dr. Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani, Qatar’s Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution told said in Doha on Friday.
Dr. Al Qahtani was on board the second charter flight to depart Kabul along with 158 passengers, landing in Doha on Friday evening. The first such flight landed a day earlier on Thursday night, carrying up to 113 passengers.
Both planes landed in Qatar’s Hamad International Airport [HIA] at 8pm, with all passengers going through regular passport customs before heading to one of the compounds temporarily housing Afghans and other evacuees in the Gulf capital.
The resumption of passenger flights came after Qatari and Turkish technical teams were dispatched to Kabul airport to repair damages sustained at the facility after US and foreign troops withdrew last month.
“With respect to air navigation, technically speaking the airport is operational. However, there are certain considerations that must be taken and at the same time each and every airliner should do their own calculations,” said Dr. Al Qahtani, who returned after holding extensive talks with the new Taliban interim government in Afghanistan.
The Qatari official said it is now up to international airlines to decide whether or not to begin flying in and out of Kabul.
“We have been working with our partners, especially Turkey, to expedite the process of making the airport more efficient. And this has something to do with further talks with the caretaker government to see what’s the best way to make this airport more efficient.”
Since the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August, Qatar hsa managed to evacuate over 58,000 people from the country, placing them in either the US’ Al Udeid Air Base or one of the temporary compounds run by Qatari authorities in Doha.
This has granted Qatar global praise global praise, with world leaders thanking the Gulf state for its evacuation efforts.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani for facilitating the departure of US citizens from Kabul.
“We’re grateful for ongoing support,” said Blinken in a tweet.
Qatar has also announced plans to operate daily aid flights to Afghanistan, urging the international community not to cut off aid to the country.
“Humanitarian assistance should be independent from any political progress,” said Sheikh Mohammed on Thursday in a joint presser with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad.
Qureshi also called for the unfreezing of Afghanistan’s foreign assets to allow Afghans access to monetary support they need.
The latest developments in Afghanistan have further exacerbated a worsening humanitarian situation that was caused by decades of war, corruption and the 20-year foreign invasion.