Kabul (Associated Press)-On Thursday night, approximately 200 foreigners, including Americans, flew from Kabul to Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban. It was the first large-scale U.S. military evacuation in a week.
The Qatar Airways flight to Doha was a major breakthrough in difficult coordination between America and Afghanistan. Many hundreds of mostly Afghans were left behind after a lengthy standoff at another airport over a charter flight. They waited for permission from the Taliban before being allowed to return.
A senior U.S. official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to talk to the media said that the Taliban’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister helped facilitate the flight. According to the official, there were Americans and green card holders from America as well as people of other nationalities such as Canadians, Hungarians, and Germans.
Mutrak bin Majid Qatani, Qatar’s special envoy, stated that 200 more passengers would leave Afghanistan on Friday.
Ned Price, spokesperson for the US State Department, stated that 11 Americans and 10 green card holders were on board the flight. American charter evacuation flight organizers said that they knew more Americans with green cards and passports were waiting to be evacuated in Mazar-e-Sharif, and other areas.
Before the flight, the White House said that approximately 100 Americans remained in Afghanistan. Several veterans groups disagree with this estimate. Many citizens don’t tell US officials they are here. These veterans groups said that this figure does not account for permanent residents of America who reside in Afghanistan, and are seeking green cards to leave.
Fearing that the Taliban may continue to rule, thousands of Afghans want to flee. Taliban officials have stated repeatedly that Afghans can travel with proper documents and foreigners. However, many Afghans were not able to obtain certain documents and their assurances were misunderstood.
U.S. lawmakers and veterans groups are pressing the Biden administration for Afghan former military interpreters and other people who could be in danger from Taliban retaliation because they worked with the Americans to let them leave.
In the United States, Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, stated that Thursday’s escape was the result of “cautious and hard-line diplomacy and engagement.” The Taliban “showed flexibility in dealing with them. They were professional …” and pragmatic at that point.
She said that “This is a positive step,” and added that the United States would continue to do everything possible to attract Afghan allies and Americans who are interested in leaving.
The Taliban authorities patrolled the runway and passengers presented their documents. The dogs also sniffed any luggage that was left on the ground. Some senior airport staff returned to work after escaping the chaos caused by U.S.-led airline transport.
Irfan Popalzai, 12, boarded the plane along with his mother and five siblings. His family resides in Maryland, he said.