An international commercial flight carrying over 100 foreigners left Kabul on Thursday, making it the first such plane to have taken off since the United States forces left Afghanistan last month, Reuters reported.
A total of 113 people were on the Qatar Airways flight from Kabul to Doha, the agency quoted officials as saying. Citizens of the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Germany and the United Kingdom were reportedly among the passengers on the flight.
All commercial flights had been suspended at Kabul airport on August 16, a day after the Taliban captured the city. On August 31, the last US soldiers left Afghanistan, ending a 20-year-long war that began after a terrorist attack in New York city on September 11, 2001.
Qatar’s special envoy for conflict resolution Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani said the flight that took off on Thursday was a regular one, and not an evacuation plane, The Guardian reported. He said that another such flight will take off on Friday.
The envoy called it was a historic day for Afghanistan, the BBC reported. He added the Kabul airport was now operational.
US National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne praised the Taliban for facilitating the flight. “The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA [Hamid Karzai International Airport],” Horne said in a statement.
She added: “They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the safe departure of the flight was the result of careful and challenging diplomatic engagement. “...We welcome the Taliban’s actions in facilitating this flight as part of their commitment to allow those with travel documents who wish to leave to do so,” he said.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that out of 39 people who were invited by the authorities, 10 US citizens and 11 Lawful Permanent Residents boarded the flight from Kabul.
Canada stated that 43 of its citizens were on the flight. There were 13 citizens of the UK and the Netherlands on board, according to The Guardian.
Many countries, including India, began making efforts to evacuate their citizens from Afghanistan after the Taliban began making rapid advances in the country. On August 27, Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said that the Indian government has evacuated over 550 people, including more than 260 Indians, from Afghanistan.
On September 2, Bagchi said that India will resume operations to evacuate people from Kabul as soon as the airport services resume.
He said that a vast majority of Indians who wanted to leave the country have done so. But he added that he does not yet have the exact number of Indians who are still stuck in Afghanistan.