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Qatari official: Kabul airport 90% operational after chaotic US evacuation

A Qatari security personnel stands guard as a Qatar Airways aircraft takes off from the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 9, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

A Qatari official says Afghanistan's Kabul airport is 90% ready for operation after a team of engineers from the Persian Gulf state repaired parts of the air traffic control system damaged in the wake of a chaotic US evacuation. 

Media reports quoting a Qatari official on Thursday said the reopening of Hamid Karzai International Airport, a vital lifeline with both the outside world and across Afghanistan's mountainous territory, has been planned gradually.

Flights into Kabul will pass through Pakistan's airspace for the time being, because the majority of Afghanistan is still not covered by flight radar, the official said, adding there will be an evacuation flight out from Kabul soon.

Ghirlandaio Jailani Wafa, a top aviation official at Kabul airport, earlier said that a few domestic flights were able to resume after Qatari engineers set up temporary radio communications between air traffic controllers and pilots last week.

Meanwhile, an unnamed US official said 200 Americans and other foreigners still in Afghanistan were set to depart by charter flights from Kabul late Thursday.

The evacuation became possible after the new Taliban interim government, composed of mainly ethnic Pashtun men and drawn exclusively from loyalist ranks, agreed to the departures.

Kabul airport had been closed since the end of the massive US-led airlift of its citizens and other Western nationals.

The United States fully withdrew its forces from Afghanistan before the Taliban's August 31 deadline to officially end 20 years of war and occupation.

The fall of Kabul in mid-August was triggered by the chaotic US evacuation of 124,000 foreigners.

Organizers call off Kabul rallies 

On Thursday, protest organizers cancelled rallies in Kabul after the Taliban effectively banned demonstrations.

The militant group said protests would need prior authorization from the justice ministry, adding "for the time being" no demonstrations were allowed.

There was a noticeably stronger Taliban presence on the streets of Kabul on Thursday morning as the militants stood guard on street corners and manned checkpoints.

An organizer of a protest outside the Pakistan embassy, where gunmen sprayed shots into the air on Tuesday to disperse a rally, said on Thursday that the rally had been cancelled because of the overnight ban.

Taliban forces earlier this week dispersed hundreds of protesters in cities across Afghanistan, including in Kabul, Faizabad in the northeast and in Herat in the west, where two people were shot dead.

On Tuesday, at least three rallies were held across Kabul, with Afghan protesters taking to the streets to show their defiance of the new Taliban regime.

The takeover followed months of peace talks between the Taliban and the US without the participation of the Afghan government and the sudden withdrawal of American troops from the main Bagram airbase in the dead of the night.  

It put a tragic end to 20 years of occupation which the US launched in 2001 to allegedly fight terrorism thousands of miles away from America’s own borders.

The offensive ousted the Taliban, who had ruled the country since 1996, but it worsened the security situation in Afghanistan where the militants regrouped and Daesh terrorists also got a foothold.

Last month, the Taliban overran major cities in lightning operations as the United States started to pull out. With the withdrawal came the US estimation that the militants would need a couple of months to take Kabul, but it happened in a matter of weeks. 

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