Westerners to board first commercial flight from Kabul

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A Taliban soldier stands guard at the gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. Some domestic flights have resumed at Kabul’s airport, with the state-run Ariana Afghan Airlines operating flights to three provinces. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities will allow between 100 and 150 Americans to fly out from Kabul in the coming hours, Qatari officials said on Thursday, marking the airport’s first such flight since U.S. forces withdrew from the country.

The large group of foreigners, including Americans and other Westerners, would depart Thursday 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, provided the number of Americans.

The departure of a large group of Americans for the first time since the U.S. finished its frantic airlift at the end of August would also signal that U.S. officials have come to an arrangement with the new Taliban rulers.

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 an airport in northern Afghanistan. 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.

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