About 200 people, including some Americans, have departed Kabul’s airport in the first international flight to leave Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its forces at the end of August, The Associated Press reported.
The passengers are bound for Doha on a Qatar Airways flight that brought in humanitarian and emergency aid. A senior U.S. official said that Americans, green card holders and other nationalities including Germans, Hungarians and Canadians are on the flight, the AP said.
“We want people to think this is normal,” said Qatar’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani.
Qatar had been instrumental in organizing the flight and other logistics to help get people stranded in Afghanistan out of the country.
According to The Washington Post, Qatari and Taliban officials gathered on the tarmac of the Kabul airport Thursday to announce that repairs had been made following recent violence there and the airport was nearly fully operational again.
Qahtani stressed that this was not an evacuation flight, but rather that people were leaving of their own free will and had tickets. Passengers will also need passports or other documentation, something many vulnerable Afghans don’t have.
A senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press, said two very senior Taliban officials helped facilitate the flight and that the group of roughly 200 people included Americans, green card holders and other nationalities.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people, including Americans, have been waiting for days at a different airport in Mazar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, also hoping to leave the country.