A flight carrying more than 100 international passengers from Kabul landed in Doha, the first such civilian flight since the chaotic evacuation of 124,000 foreigners and Afghans at risk triggered by the rapid takeover of the country by the Taliban.
About 113 people were on board the flight to Doha operated by state-owned Qatar Airways, officials said. Passengers included US, UK, Canadian, Ukrainian, Dutch and German citizens.
Qatar’s special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani called Thursday’s flight regular and not evacuation, and said there would be another flight on Friday. In Doha, passengers will initially stay in a complex accommodating Afghans and other evacuees.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked the Taliban and Qatari authorities and called the flight a “concrete demonstration” of America’s commitment to helping its citizens and others who have helped the United States continue to leave. Afghanistan.
Earlier, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne praised the Taliban’s cooperation on the flight. “They have shown flexibility, and they have been pragmatic and professional in our dealings with them in this effort,” she said, adding that efforts to secure new starts will continue.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said 10 US citizens and 11 permanent residents were on board the flight, out of “the 39 we invited.” Canada said 43 of its citizens were on the plane, while the UK and the Netherlands each had 13 on board.
A dual Afghan-American citizen, waiting to board the flight with his family, said the US State Department called him Thursday morning. “We contacted the State Department, they called me this morning and told me to go to the airport,” the father, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP.
Although international flights have flown with officials, technicians and aid in recent days, it was the first civilian flight since the Taliban captured the capital on August 15.
In the days following the Taliban takeover, the airport had become a tragic symbol of desperation among Afghans terrified of the return of militants to power – with thousands of people crowding around its doors daily, and some even clinging to planes on take-off.
The departure approved by the Taliban on Thursday comes amid growing concern over the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation under the new regime of the hardline Islamist group, especially with regard to freedom of expression and rights women.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday pleaded with the international community to maintain ties with the Taliban, warning that an “economic collapse” with perhaps millions of dead must be avoided.
“We must maintain a dialogue with the Taliban, where we directly affirm our principles – a dialogue with a sense of solidarity with the Afghan people,” he told AFP. “Our duty is to extend our solidarity to a people who suffer greatly, where millions and millions of people risk dying of hunger. “
The UN chief said there were “no guarantees” about what might come out of the talks, but that the talks were essential “if we want Afghanistan not to be a center of terrorism, if we want women and girls not to lose all the rights acquired during the previous period, if we want the different ethnic groups to feel represented.
“So far, in the discussions we have had, there is at least a receptivity to talk,” added Guterres, who does not rule out going to Afghanistan one day if the conditions are right.
Guterres added that the Taliban wanted recognition, financial support and sanctions abolished.
“This gives some leverage to the international community,” he said, adding that “a situation of economic collapse which could create appalling humanitarian consequences” must be avoided.
Guterres suggested that, as with Yemen, it is possible to provide for the granting of “financial instruments” to Kabul that would not be subject to the current sanctions.
“It is in the interest of the international community and I am not talking about the lifting of sanctions or recognition. I am talking about targeted measures to allow the Afghan economy to breathe.
With Reuters and Agence France-Presse