Flight leaving Kabul brings hope to Afghanistan

Ten days after the evacuation from Afghanistan ended, the first international flight took off from Kabul airport on September 9.

The Qatar Airways flight carrying US, Canadian and British citizens was hailed by many as a sign that Taliban-run Afghanistan might be ready to join the world. However, this hope is only a glimmer.

“Kabul airport is operating normally,” Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, special envoy from Qatar’s foreign ministry, told a press conference on the tarmac.

Passengers board a Qatar Airways flight as they prepare to leave Kabul, Afghanistan, September 9.  Photo: NYTimes.

Passengers board a Qatar Airways flight as they prepare to leave Kabul, Afghanistan, September 9. Photo: NYTimes.

In recent days, Qatar and Turkey have coordinated with the Taliban to repair the damage and bring the Kabul airport back to normal operation. But just over a week ago, the place was plunged into chaos as frenzied crowds jostled each other, jostling for seats on flights to evacuate Afghanistan.

When the last flight departed Kabul just before midnight on August 30, it left behind a desolate “ghost airport” littered with damaged equipment and evacuees’ unmovable possessions. Also left behind are countless foreigners and Afghans who want to leave but have no way out.

Qatari Foreign Ministry envoy Al-Qahtani appeared at the airport yesterday to point out the difference between the past and now. He emphasized that the Qatar Airways flight was not for evacuation. “We are talking about free passengers,” Al-Qahtani said. “We want people to feel this is normal.”

More flights are promised in the coming days. Still, the fate of many people remains uncertain, including those at the airport in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where dozens of US citizens and hundreds of Afghans await the Taliban. allowing them to board chartered flights to leave Afghanistan.

During a press conference at Kabul airport, Taliban and Qatari officials hailed the flight as proof that Afghanistan is reconnecting with the international community. While this message may be exaggerated as most world leaders remain wary of the country’s new government, the United States on the same day paid tribute to the Taliban.

“The Taliban have cooperated to facilitate the disembarkation of US citizens and lawful permanent residents on chartered flights from HKIA,” said Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, referring to the US National Security Council. Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. “They have shown flexibility and professionalism in making deals with us. This is a very positive first step.”

The State Department confirmed US citizens were on board the Qatar Airways flight from Kabul to Doha, but did not specify the number. Spokesman Ned Price said more than 30 Americans were invited to board the flight, but some did not.

At Kabul airport, as passengers checked in for their flight to Qatar, the mood of relief was in stark contrast to the scene there just over a week ago.

Safi, 42, from Toronto, Canada, was cleared of security. He tried to find a way out of Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the capital Kabul last month but gave up when he saw chaos on the streets outside the airport.

But yesterday, the atmosphere was quite normal. “Everything is fine,” Safi said. “It seems the authorities have kept their promise.”

The previous flight from Doha landed in Kabul with 50 tons of aid, including food.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, who appeared with the Qatari envoy at the airport news conference, said the resumption of international flights was crucial to ensure that needed aid continued. transferred to Afghanistan.

The United Nations has warned that freezing billions of dollars of Afghan assets to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Taliban will inevitably have devastating economic consequences.

Deborah Lyons, the United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan, said that the international community needs to find a way to provide these funds to Kabul with certain safeguards so that they are not misused. prevent the “collapse of the economy and social order”.

Afghanistan’s interim prime minister, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, yesterday called on fugitives from the former government to return and the Taliban would “ensure their security and safety”.

But this assurance and other promises made by the Taliban were received with skepticism. Many people still remember how the Taliban governed the country 20 years ago. Others are shocked to see what the group has done since returning to power.

“The Taliban insist they will respect human rights, but this statement is far from what we are seeing or hearing around the country,” Amnesty International said in a statement. . “Afghan people who took to the streets to protest were threatened, harassed and treated with violence, especially women.”

Vu Hoang (Follow NYTimes)

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