Taliban lets plane carrying Americans and other foreign nationals leave Kabul
Kabul, Afghanistan — Afghanistan‘s Taliban authorities have allowed a flight carrying Americans and other foreign nationals to fly out of Kabul, U.S. and Qatari officials said on Thursday. The departure of the plane, which landed safely in Doha, Qatar, marked the airport’s first such flight since U.S. forces withdrew from the country.
The group of about 115 passengers, including about 20 Americans and their families as well as other Westerners, departed on a Qatar Airways flight that had earlier ferried humanitarian aid to the country, officials said. From the tarmac at Kabul international airport, 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.”
The Qatari officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement, put the number of U.S. nationals on the flight at 100-150, but a U.S. official told CBS News’ Margaret Brennan that the Taliban had agreed to let 200 people leave in total, including Americans and “other foreigners.”
The official said the U.S. was pressing the Taliban to let more people leave this week, but that no agreement had yet been reached about a group of Americans and Afghans stranded in Mazar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul.
Asked about the flight plans, a State Department spokesperson would only tell CBS News that the U.S. government’s efforts to assist Americans and others “to whom we have a special commitment” were ongoing, but that no specifics could be shared.
The departure of a group of Americans for the first time since the U.S. finished its frantic airlift at the end of August would signal that U.S. officials have come to an arrangement with the new Taliban rulers, with whom talks have continued.
In recent days there had been a stand-off between the Taliban and organizers of several charter planes who had hoped to evacuate Americans and at-risk Afghans from Mazar-i-Sharif. The Taliban have said they would let passengers with valid travel documents leave, but that many of those at the northern airport did not have such papers.
Earlier this week the U.S. State Department said an American family of four had been allowed to flee the country over a land border, but there was growing concern for the Americans and Afghans stranded and trying to leave from the airport about 260 miles north of Kabul.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that there were still believed to be “somewhere around 100” U.S. citizens wanting to escape from Afghanistan, and that the U.S. government was communicating with all of them.