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About 200 Westerners, Including Americans, Fly Out of Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An estimated 200 foreigners, together with Individuals, left Afghanistan on a business flight out of Kabul on Thursday with the cooperation of the Taliban — the primary such large-scale departure since U.S. forces accomplished their frantic withdrawal over per week in the past.

The Qatar Airways flight to Doha marked a breakthrough within the bumpy coordination between the U.S. and Afghanistan’s new rulers. A dayslong standoff over constitution planes at one other airport has left a whole bunch of principally Afghan folks stranded, ready for Taliban permission to go away.

A senior U.S. official, talking on situation of anonymity as a result of he wasn’t approved to speak to the media, stated the Taliban’s international minister and deputy prime minister helped facilitate the flight. Individuals, U.S. inexperienced card holders and different nationalities, together with Germans, Hungarians and Canadians, had been aboard, the official stated.

Qatari envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani stated one other 200 passengers will depart Afghanistan on Friday.

It was not instantly clear what number of Individuals had been on board Thursday and what number of had been nonetheless in Afghanistan.

The White Home stated earlier than the flight that there have been roughly 100 Americans left in Afghanistan. However a number of veterans teams have stated that that quantity is simply too low as a result of many voters by no means bothered to inform U.S. officers they had been within the nation. And so they stated the determine overlooks green-card-carrying everlasting U.S. residents residing in Afghanistan who wish to depart.

Many hundreds of Afghans stay determined to get out, too, afraid of what Taliban rule would possibly maintain. The Taliban have repeatedly stated foreigners and Afghans with correct journey paperwork may depart. However their assurances have been meet with skepticism, and plenty of Afghans have been unable to acquire sure paperwork.

U.S. lawmakers, veterans teams and others are urgent the Biden administration to make sure that former Afghan army interpreters and others who could possibly be at risk of Taliban reprisals for working with the Individuals are allowed to go away.

Within the U.S., Nationwide Safety Council spokesperson Emily Horne stated that Thursday’s flight was the end result of “careful and hard diplomacy and engagement” and that the Taliban “have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort.”

“This is a positive first step,” she stated, including that the U.S. will proceed making an attempt to extract Individuals and Afghan allies who wish to depart.

As Taliban authorities patrolled the tarmac, passengers introduced their paperwork for inspection and canines sniffed baggage laid out on the bottom. Some veteran airport staff had returned to their jobs after fleeing in the course of the harrowing chaos of the U.S.-led airlift.

Irfan Popalzai, 12, boarded the flight together with his mom and 5 brothers and sisters. He stated his household lives in Maryland.

“I am an Afghan, but you know I am from America and I am so excited” to go away, he stated.

The airport was extensively broken within the frenzied closing days of the U.S. airlift that evacuated over 100,000 folks. However Qatari authorities introduced that it had been repaired with the assistance of specialists from Qatar and Turkey and was prepared for the resumption of worldwide airline flights.

“I can clearly say that this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan as Kabul airport is now operational,” al-Qahtani stated. He added: “Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan.”

The flight was the primary to take off from the Kabul airport since American forces left the nation on the finish of August. The accompanying scenes of chaos, together with Afghans plunging to their deaths from the perimeters of army plane on takeoff and a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, got here to outline the tip of America’s two-decade conflict.

The airport is now not the Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport, however merely Kabul Worldwide Airport, with the title of the nation’s former president eliminated. A number of Taliban flags flew from the terminal, which was emblazoned “The Islamic Emirate seeks peaceful and positive relations with the world.”

A whole bunch of different Afghans who say they’re in danger for serving to the Individuals have gathered for greater than per week within the northern metropolis of Mazar-e-Sharif, ready for permission to board evacuation flights chartered by U.S. supporters. Many are believed to not have the required journey paperwork.

In Mazar-e-Sharif on Thursday, an Afghan who labored 15 years as an interpreter for the U.S. army was transferring from lodge to lodge and operating out of cash as he, his eight youngsters and his spouse waited for the OK from the Taliban to go away.

“I’m frightened I will be left behind,” stated the person, whose title was withheld by The Related Press for his security.

The interpreter stated he was one of many former U.S. staff whose particular visas america authorised within the final weeks of the American army presence in Afghanistan. However with the U.S. Embassy closed when the Taliban took Kabul on Aug. 15, it has change into unattainable to get the visa stamped into his passport.

He stated he doesn’t belief Taliban assurances that they won’t take revenge in opposition to Afghans who labored for the Individuals.

“No, never,” he stated. “I never believe them, because they are lying.”

Afghanistan conflict veteran Matt Zeller, who based the group No One Left Behind to assist Afghan translators and others who supported American troops, stated he doesn’t imagine it’s potential for candidates to the particular immigrant visa program to get a visa with out an embassy in Kabul.

“For all intents and purposes, these people’s chances of escaping the Taliban ended the day we left them behind,” he stated.

The group Battle Time Allies estimates that as many as 20,000 particular visa candidates stay within the nation, not counting these eligible underneath a extra liberal rule change made in July. Add their households to that and the overall quantities to greater than 80,000 folks, in accordance with the group.

U.S. State Division spokesman Ned Worth stated america is steps resembling digital visas to beat the dearth of an embassy in Afghanistan.

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