Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have allowed a flight filled with 200 Americans and other foreign nationals to depart the Kabul airport, U.S. and Qatari officials reported on Thursday. The plane filled with stranded Americans and those who were left behind by the messy U.S. exit landed safely on Doha, Qatar and was the first flight to leave Kabul following the withdrawal of Western troops at the end of last month.
According to CBS News, the Qatar Airways flight held about 115 passengers, with 20 Americans and their families and other Westerners and previously delivered humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, a Qatari special envoy said that the flight would depart with Americans and Westerners and promised another flight will depart on Friday.
"Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight, everyone has tickets and boarding passes," Bin Majed al-Qahtani said. "Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan."
Qatari officials who spoke anonymously ahead of the formal announcement said that there were about 100 to 150 Americans on the flight, but an unnamed U.S. official confirmed that the Taliban actually agreed to let up to 200 fly out, including Americans and "other foreigners."
The U.S. official also confirmed that the Biden administration is continuing its talks with the Taliban authorities to allow more people to leave Afghanistan, but no agreement has been reached regarding the Americans and Afghan allies left behind in Mazar-i-Sharif.
For now, a a State Department spokesperson could only confirm that the U.S. is working on assisting Americans and others "to whom we have a special commitment."
The single flight out of Afghanistan signals positive cooperation from the Taliban authorities. However, there has been no information about the six private planes chartered by conservative media host Glenn Beck's Nazarene Fund and Mercury One charity, which should be allowed to depart the airport in Mazar-e-Sharif, CBN News reported.
An NGO official said that the Taliban authorities ordered no flights out after negotiations with the U.S. broke down.
More than 100 Americans and 1,500 refugees were prevented from flying out of Afghanistan despite already having boarded planes at the airport. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Taliban authorities to let them go. The Taliban said that they were "not permitting the charter flights to depart" because "some of the passengers do not have the required documentation," Sec. Blinken reported.
Those who were stuck at the airport in Mazar-e-Sharif included dozens of American citizens and green card holders and their families. One Afghan woman who gathered with other evacuees at a Mazar-e-Sharif hotel described the Americans and green-card holders who she was stuck with as elderly parents of Afghan-American citizens in the U.S. She lamented, "We think we are in some kind of jail."
"While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground, without an airport with normal security procedures in place, we are doing everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground," Sec. Blinken said on Wednesday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, ABC News reported. "That's what we've done, that's what we'll continue to do."