Kabul: Dozens of foreigners, including Americans, have left Kabul on an international commercial flight, marking the first large-scale evacuation since US and NATO forces left Afghanistan late last month.
Their departure on Thursday represented a breakthrough in the bumpy coordination between the US and Afghanistan's new Taliban leaders.
The Taliban have said they would let foreigners and Afghans with valid travel documents leave, but a dayslong standoff over charter planes at another airport had cast some doubt on Taliban assurances.
The Qatar Airways flight is heading to Doha.
A senior US official said that Americans, green card holders and other nationalities including Germans, Hungarians and Canadians are on the flight.
Some 200 foreigners, including Americans, boarded the international commercial flight from Kabul airport.
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 they weren't authorised 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 official said.
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.
Irfan Popalzai, 12, among those boarding the flight with his mother and five brothers and sisters, said his family lives in Maryland.
"I am an Afghan, but you know I am from America and I am so excited (to leave)," he said.
As the group prepared to board, Qatari officials gathered on the tarmac of Kabul airport to announce the airport was ready for the resumption of international commercial flights after days of repairs.
Extensive damage to the travel hub in the frenzied final days of the US airlift that evacuated over 100,000 people from the country had raised questions over how soon the transport hub could resume for regular commercial flights. Technical experts from Qatar and Turkey have been racing to restore operations.
"I can clearly say that this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan as Kabul airport is now operational," said Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani.
"Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight, everyone has tickets and boarding passes," al-Qahtani added, noting that another commercial flight would take off on Friday. "Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan." 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.
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