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Dozens of Westerners board first commercial flight from Kabul airport

Afghanistan Kabul airport
Posted at 7:55 AM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 08:51:40-04

KABUL, Afghanistan — Dozens of foreigners, including Americans, boarded a commercial flight at Kabul airport on Thursday in the first large-scale evacuation since U.S and NATO forces left Afghanistan late last month.

Their departure marked a significant breakthrough in the bumpy coordination between the U.S. and Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers.

The Taliban have said they would let foreigners and Afghans with valid travel documents leave, but a days-long standoff over charter planes at another airport had cast some doubt on Taliban assurances.

The Taliban had said it would let travelers leave if they were in possession of proper travel documents, though most at the airport did not have such papers.

Thursday’s Qatar Airways flight is heading to Doha.

Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, a Qatari special envoy, said the flight would leave with Americans and Westerners.

“Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight, everyone has tickets and boarding passes,” he said, adding that another commercial flight would take off on Friday. “Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan.”

After the U.S. concluded evacuation efforts on Aug. 31, the State Department confirmed that up to 200 Americans who had previously expressed a willingness to leave Afghanistan remained in the country.

Sec. of State Antony Blinken pointed out that many of those Americans had families in Afghanistan and may have re-thought their decision to leave. Still, he expressed that the U.S. would still be committed to helping them leave through diplomatic means.