Scores of Westerners Fly Out of Kabul

By Asharq Al-Awsat
Passengers prepare to board a Qatar Airways aircraft at the airport in Kabul on September 9, 2021. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP)

Some 200 foreigners, including Americans, flew out of Afghanistan on an international commercial flight from Kabul airport on Thursday, the first such large-scale departure since US and foreign forces concluded their frantic withdrawal at the end of last month.

The Qatar Airways flight to Doha marked a significant breakthrough in the bumpy coordination between the US and Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers. A dayslong stand-off over charter planes at another airport had left dozens of passengers stranded and cast doubt on Taliban assurances to allow foreigners and Afghans with proper travel documents to leave the country.

A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief the media, provided the number of Westerners on board and said that two very senior Taliban officials had helped facilitate the departure. Americans, green card holders and other nationalities including Germans, Hungarians and Canadians were on the flight, The Associated Press quoted the official as saying.

As Taliban authorities patrolled the tarmac, passengers presented their documents for checking, and sniffer dogs inspected luggage laid out on the ground. Some of the veteran airport workers had returned to their jobs after fleeing during the harrowing chaos of the US-led airlift.

The flight represents the first to depart from Kabul airport since American forces left the country at the end of August, their departure accompanied by a frantic airlift of tens of thousands of foreign citizens and Afghans fleeing the Taliban. The scenes of chaos, including Afghans plunging to their deaths after clinging to military aircraft that was taking off and a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 US service members, came to define the fraught end to America’s two-decade war.

A foreign diplomat, likewise speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief the media, said another 200 foreigners, including Americans, would depart in the next couple of days.


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