Americans and Afghan citizens who fled Kabul this week but were held up in Abu Dhabi after being denied entry to the United States are now on their way to the US.
The evacuees were hosted by the UAE while they were vetted by US officials and were given permission to enter the US, a UAE source told The National.
The flight was organised by an ad hoc group of US veterans called Project Dynamo to move 117 US and Afghan citizens out of Kabul on Tuesday. Project Dynamo said they were denied permission by the US to fly over Iraq and so rented a Kam Air flight to take people to Abu Dhabi and then on to the US from there.
Bryan Stern, who founded Project Dynamo and is aboard the flight, told the media that take-off from Abu Dhabi was initially denied by the US this week.
A representative for the Department of Homeland Security said that “all US-bound flights must follow the established safety, security and health protocols before they are cleared for departure".
The representative said that flight manifests must be “verified before departure to the US to ensure all passengers are screened appropriately".
The UAE source told The National that US officials completed the vetting of all those aboard the original flight and they departed aboard an Etihad plane early on Thursday morning.
The US State Department confirmed the departure to The National.
"The US Embassy worked around the clock to verify the accuracy of the passenger manifest and co-ordinate with the Department of Homeland Security on the ground to ensure the passengers were screened and vetted before they flew to the US," the spokesperson said.
Twenty-eight US citizens, 83 lawful permanent residents and six people with US Special Immigration Visas given to Afghans employed by the US military or other entities during the 20-year war in Afghanistan were aboard the Kam Air flight, Mr Stern said.
The US and its allies evacuated more than 123,000 civilians from Afghanistan before the August 31 deadline for American troops to leave.
However, thousands of American citizens, permanent residents or those with Special Immigrant Visas were left behind.
While the Taliban has urged Afghans to stay, they have said they would allow those with valid visas as well as foreign citizens to depart. It is unclear how many have left by plane since the US withdrawal. Kabul airport was closed in the immediate aftermath of the Taliban takeover but with foreign assistance, flights have resumed.