More Britons have escaped Afghanistan on an international commercial flight, marking the first large-scale evacuation since British and US-led coalition forces left the country.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said 13 Britons were among around 200 foreigners able to leave Afghanistan on a Qatar Airways flight to Doha.
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have said they will let foreigners and Afghans with valid travel documents leave and the flight from Kabul is a sign that some movement is being permitted.
About 200 foreigners prepared to leave Kabul as the Taliban allowed international flights out of Afghanistan to resume. There 13 Britons at the scene
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, pictured, confirmed there were 13 Britons on the evacuation flight from Kabul
The foreign citizens would depart from Kabul Airport to Doha, Qatar on Thursday
Passangers were led onto the tarmac to begin boarding the Qatar Airways flight
This was the first large-scale departure flight since the final U.S. troops left on August 31
Under the watchful eyes of Taliban fighters patrolling the tarmac, passengers presented their documents for checking and sniffer dogs inspected luggage laid out on the ground.
Kabul airport was left extensively damaged in the aftermath of the chaotic evacuation in August as international forces withdrew at the end of two decades of war.
Technical experts from Qatar and Turkey were brought in to restore operations and staff at the airport included some who had returned to work following the harrowing scenes during the airlift operation.
A Qatari security personnel stands guard of the Qatar Airways aircraft in Kabul
The Taliban had allowed the flight to take off as it reopened the international airport
The flight took off from Kabul and will be heading towards Qatar’s capital, Doha
The passengers will arrive in Qatar before making their respective trips back home
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday that 13 British citizens had been able to leave Afghanistan bound for Qatar.
He said: ‘We are grateful to our Qatari friends for facilitating a flight carrying 13 British nationals from Kabul to safety in Doha today.
‘We expect the Taliban to keep to their commitment to allow safe passage for those who want to leave,’ he added.
Grounded planes are seen at Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport, where hundreds of evacuees have been stuck and unable to leave Afghanistan in a standoff between the US and Taliban
Taliban authorities have agreed to let 200 American civilians and third country nationals depart on charter flights from Kabul airport. The Kabul Airport is seen above
Blinken met with refugees at the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein, Germany on Wednesday as the State Department faces criticism after leaked emails show it refused to let privately chartered planes land at the Doha, Qatar U.S. military base, even if they have Americans on board
The evacuees were transported to the airport in a Qatari convoy after Qatar worked with parties on the ground to secure safe passage.
Although international flights have gone in and out with officials, technicians and aid in recent days, this was the first such civilian flight since the evacuation which followed the Taliban’s seizure of the capital on August 15 as foreign military forces pulled out.
It marked an important step in the Islamist militant group’s efforts to bring some kind of normality back to the country, which is facing economic collapse and a humanitarian crisis.
The Qatar Airways plane had arrived in Kabul earlier on Thursday carrying aid, it said Al Jazeera television reported.
Blinken speaks to members of the US embassy and Mission Afghanistan in the Qatari capital Doha on Tuesday. Blinken blamed the Taliban for blocking charter flights
The de-facto ruler of Afghanistan, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is seen in a file photo
A U.S. official had said 200 foreigners in Afghanistan, Americans among them, were set to depart on charter flights from Kabul on Thursday after the Taliban agreed to their evacuation.
Qatari and Turkish technical teams helped restore operations at the airport, from where 124,000 foreigners and at-risk Afghans were evacuated by U.S.-led forces in the fraught days after the Taliban takeover.
Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani described Thursday’s flight out as a regular one and not an evacuation. There would also be a flight on Friday, he said.
Al-Qahtani said: ‘Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight, everyone has tickets and boarding passes. Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan.’
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that as of Wednesday about 100 U.S. citizens were still in Afghanistan but that not all necessarily wanted to leave now. Some may have family in the country or other reasons for not departing yet, she said.
The flight came two days after the Taliban announced an interim government made up of mainly ethnic Pashtun men, including Islamist hardliners and some wanted by the United States on terrorism charges.
Foreign countries greeted the formation of the new government with caution and dismay, seeing it as a signal the Taliban would not try to broaden their base and show a more tolerant face as they had suggested they would do.
All of the ministers are men, and nearly all Pashtuns, the ethnic group that predominates in the Taliban’s southern Afghan heartland but accounts for under half the country’s population.
The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, women and girls were banned from work and education. The group carried out public executions and its religious police enforced a radical interpretation of Islamic law.
That Taliban government was ousted by a U.S.-led intervention following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States masterminded by al Qaeda leaders based in Afghanistan, and 20 years of warfare followed.
The Taliban took power again with a swift offensive as U.S. troops withdrew under a deal between Washington and the Taliban.
The new Taliban leaders have pledged to respect rights in line with Islamic law, but have yet to provide details. Afghans who won more freedoms in the past two decades fear losing them.
A newspaper editor said two of his journalists were beaten in police custody this week after covering a protest by women in Kabul where they were detained by the Taliban.
Zaki Daryabi, founder and editor-in-chief of the Etilaat Roz newspaper, shared images on social media of two male reporters, one with large, red welts across his lower back and legs and the other with similar marks on his shoulder and arm.
Both men’s faces were also bruised and cut in the pictures, which were verified by Reuters.
A Taliban minister said any attack on journalists would be investigated. But protests were being curtailed because there was a security threat from Islamic State fighters, he said.
Many critics called on the leadership to respect basic human rights and revive the economy, which faces collapse amid steep inflation and food shortages.
The Taliban government wanted to engage with regional and Western governments and work with international aid organisations, the Taliban minister said.
But White House spokeswoman Psaki said no one in the Biden administration “would suggest that the Taliban are respected and valued members of the global community”.
Analysts said the make-up of the cabinet https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-choices-new-cabinet-could-hamper-recognition-by-west-2021-09-08 could hamper recognition by the West. The interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is wanted by the United States on terrorism charges and carries a reward of $10 million, while his uncle, with a bounty of $5 million, is the minister for refugees and repatriation.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns discussed Afghanistan in talks in Pakistan with army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and military intelligence head Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, Pakistan’s military said.
Afghanistan’s ousted U.S.-backed government accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban. While officially denying that, Pakistan has long seen the Taliban as its best option for curbing the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan.
In Islamabad, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the immediate challenge was to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
“To save lives and the people of Afghanistan, there should be