First international commercial flight lands in Kabul since Taliban takeover

Only 10 passengers were onboard a commercial flight to Kabul from Islamabad in Pakistan

Maroosha Muzaffar
Monday 13 September 2021 14:27
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First foreign commercial flight since Taliban takeover lands in Kabul

An international commercial flight landed in Kabul on Monday for the first time since the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

An AFP journalist – who was on board – said the Pakistan International Airways (PIA) flight from Islamabad carried “around 10 people”.

At least 100 passengers from Kabul, however, were waiting to get onboard the flight, that made a return trip to Islamabad.

“There was hardly anyone on the plane, around 10 people... maybe more staff than passengers,” the news agency quoted the journalist as saying.

Over the weekend, a PIA spokesperson said the airline was “keen to resume regular commercial services, but it was too soon to say how frequently flights between the two capitals would operate.”

AFP reported that a bus painted with the words “Welcome to Afghanistan” had been waiting to take the arriving passengers from the plane to the Kabul terminal, but the passengers preferred to walk instead.

Meanwhile, an Afghan airline – Ariana Afghan Airlines – resumed domestic operations within the country on 3 September.

“This is a big moment. We are very excited. It’s a hopeful day. Maybe other airlines will see this and decide to come back,” an unnamed airport employee was quoted by AFP as saying.

Tamim Ahmadi, a senior manager with the airline, was quoted by the media as saying that “we have received a green light from the Taliban and aviation authorities and plan to start flights today [3 September].”

About 200 foreigners on 9 September – including Americans – flew out of Afghanistan on a Qatar Airways flight, which was the first large-scale commercial evacuation flight since the western-backed Afghan government fell and foreign troops withdrew.

A Qatari special envoy, a day after the flight flew out of the country, called it a “historic day”. Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani was quoted by Al Jazeera saying that he sounded optimistic about “life becoming normal in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan was plunged into a crisis after US troops left Kabul on 31 August, and the Taliban took control of the country.

Amid scenes of chaos that surrounded the Kabul airport soon after the pullout, at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members were killed in a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport last month, days before the withdrawal of US troops was completed.

There have since been attempts to repair damage and make Kabul’s international airport functional again, something for which the Taliban has reportedly received assistance from Qatari and Turkish personnel.

The US, which drew criticism for its hasty pullout, claimed to have evacuated more than 120,000 people, including Afghani allies, from the country.

Several reports pointed out that thousands had attempted to flee the country after the pullout.

The Taliban has said that those with the “right” documents would be allowed to leave the country freely.

Earlier this month, Michael McCaul, a US representative from the Republican party, claimed the Taliban were stopping Afghans and Americans from leaving Afghanistan via the Mazar-i-Sharif airport.

The Taliban has denied these claims and said this was propaganda.

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