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First civilian flight leaves Kabul airport since US pullout

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Taliban fighters walk past a Qatar Airways aircraft preparing to take off from the airport in Kabul, September 9, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

An international flight transporting passengers, including American citizens, has left the Afghan capital for Qatar, for the first time since the last of the US forces left Afghanistan ten days ago.

The flight, with 200 passengers aboard, took off from the Kabul international airport on Thursday.

According to the National Security Council (NSC), the flight which was operated by Qatar Airways had landed safely in Doha.

Nationals from the United States, Canada, Ukraine, Germany, and Britain had been on board.

A second flight is also expected to operate at the airport on Friday, according to the Taliban.

The council spokeswoman, Emily Horne, welcomed the move. “This is a positive first step.”

“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens,” she said. “They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort.”

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also praised the Taliban for allowing the flight to depart.

“We managed to fly the first plane with passengers… we thank (the Taliban) for their cooperation,” he said in televised remarks on Thursday.

Qatar, which is a major transit point for Afghan refugees, said it worked with Turkey to swiftly resume operations at the airport in Kabul.

They reached an agreement with the Taliban to help provide security at the airport.

The West has been concerned about the reopening of the airport, as thousands of Afghans and many foreign citizens were stranded in Afghanistan, after the Taliban takeover.

Washington had already said a little more than 100 Americans were believed to remain in Afghanistan.

US President Joe Biden said his administration had managed to evacuate more than 123,000 people, including most Americans, in the final two weeks of the American presence in the country.

He defended his administration’s handling of the hasty withdrawal and evacuation of US citizens from Afghanistan, saying, “I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit.”

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 as part of the so-called war on terror. While the invasion ended the Taliban’s rule in the country back then, it is now ended with the return of the group to power.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 15; weeks after they intensified offensives and rapidly overran major cities across the country as the US started the withdrawal in early May.

A group of Republican senators said Wednesday that the chaotic pullout left Americans and service members in particular “hurting, angry, and disappointed.”

In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, nine committee Republicans said they “acutely feel the obligation to seek answers” about how 20 years of war “in Afghanistan concluded.”

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