A plane carrying about 200 people flew out of the Kabul airport Thursday, in the first major departure from the Afghan capital since the United States completed its withdrawal last month. The video above shows the flight’s departure and arrival.
The 200 people aboard included some Americans, as well as U.S. green card holders and individuals of other nationalities including Germans, Hungarians and Canadians.
The commercial flight carried them to Doha, Qatar. It was not immediately clear how many of the 200 were Americans. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had previously said the U.S. believed roughly 100 American citizens remained in Afghanistan.
Before departure, Qatari officials gathered on the tarmac to announce the airport, now named the Kabul International Airport rather than the Hamid Karzai International Airport, was ready to resume international commercial flights after days of repairs.
Qatari envoy Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani said the airport’s radar is now active and covering some 70 miles after U.S. forces left it inoperable.
Al-Qahtani said another Kabul departure is set for Friday. A diplomat said foreigners, including Americans, will depart in the next couple of days.
Extensive damage in the frenzied final days of the U.S.’ withdrawal raised questions about how soon commercial service could resume. Experts from Qatar and Turkey raced to restore operations.
“I can clearly say that this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan as Kabul airport is now operational,” al-Qahtani said.
“Call it what you want, a charter or a commercial flight, everyone has tickets and boarding passes,” he added. “Hopefully, life is becoming normal in Afghanistan.”
A senior U.S. official said two senior Taliban officials helped facilitate the departure from Kabul — the new foreign minister and deputy prime minister. The two were appointed to their interim positions Tuesday.
Many thousands of Afghans remain desperate to get out of the country, afraid of what Taliban rule might hold. The Taliban have repeatedly said foreigners and Afghans with proper travel documents could leave. But their assurances have been meet with skepticism, even with the departure of the Qatar flight.
Hundreds of Afghans who say they are at risk for helping the Americans have gathered for more than a week in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. There, they are waiting for permission to board chartered evacuation flights. Many of them are believed not to have the necessary documents.