Afghanistan: first evacuation flight from Kabul since US exit lands in Qatar

White House says it has not validated Taliban government

Members of ground staff stand on the tarmac as a Qatar Airways aircraft taxis before taking off from the airport in Kabul on September 9, 2021. AFP
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More than 100 foreign passengers left on a flight to Doha, Qatar, on Thursday from Afghanistan after the Taliban agreed to let Americans exit the country following the US withdrawal.

Americans and Britons were among the foreigners on the Qatar Airways flight that landed in Doha, AFP and PA Media reported.

It marked the first international flight after the Kabul airport shut following the withdrawal of US troops on August 31. Hundreds of non-Afghans were unable to leave the country before the deadline.

The first international flight from Kabul since the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan taxis at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 9, 2021.  Reuters

The Taliban earlier on Thursday agreed to let 200 American civilians and third-country nationals in Afghanistan leave on chartered flights, a US official said.

An Afghan-American dual citizen, waiting to board the flight with his family, said the US State Department had called him in the morning and told him to go to the airport.

"We got in contact with the State Department, they gave me a call this morning and said to go to the airport," the man, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The Taliban were pressed to allow the departures by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy to Afghanistan, said the official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The official could not say whether these Americans and third-country nationals were among those stranded for days in Mazar-i-Sharif because their private charters have not been allowed to depart.

Qatari envoy Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani told The Associated Press that another 200 passengers will leave Afghanistan on Friday.

A diplomat who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media said foreigners, including Americans, will depart in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, the US has not told the Taliban it will validate their new government in Afghanistan, the White House said, after the militant group unveiled its new administration.

“This is a caretaker Cabinet,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.

“No one in this administration, not the President nor anyone on the national security team, would suggest that the Taliban are respected and valued members of the global community.

“They have not earned that in any way, and we've never assessed that.”

Following talks with allies on how to present a united front to the hardline new government in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Blinken said the Taliban would have to earn legitimacy from the world.

“The Taliban seek international legitimacy. Any legitimacy – any support – will have to be earned,” Mr Blinken told reporters at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany.

A senior State Department official said all countries were broadly on the same page on dealing with the Taliban caretaker government – including Pakistan, historically the insurgents' ally.

“Pakistan was there. They talked about their unique role, from their perspective … they certainly said that we're in a position where we have to engage to some degree,” the official told reporters on Mr Blinken's plane.

“But nothing along the lines of, we think we have to recognise or legitimise the government in the near term,” he said.

Saudi Arabia said it hopes the caretaker government in Afghanistan will help it to achieve stability and overcome violence and extremism, the kingdom's foreign minister said.

Afghan women protest on streets of Kabul

Afghan women protest on streets of Kabul

Prince Faisal bin Farhan also affirmed Saudi support for “the choices the Afghan people make regarding the future of their country, away from external interference”, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.

Riyadh hopes the formation of the caretaker administration will be “a step in the right direction towards achieving security and stability, rejecting violence and extremism, building a bright future in line with these aspirations”, he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted the international community expected the Taliban to uphold human rights, including those of women, grant access to humanitarian aid and allow those wishing to leave the country to do so.

Mr Maas said he believed Wednesday's talks were “the starting point for international co-ordination” on how to deal with the Taliban.

However, the European Union voiced disapproval of the Taliban's provisional government in Afghanistan saying they had not kept a promise to include women and other religious groups.

“It does not look like the inclusive and representative formation in terms of the rich ethnic and religious diversity of Afghanistan we hoped to see and that the Taliban were promising over the past weeks,” said Peter Stano, spokesperson for the EU's foreign policy service.

“Such inclusivity and representation is expected in the composition of a future transitional government, and as a result of negotiations,” he said.

Other countries have also reacted cautiously to the announcement of the caretaker government.

Updated: September 10, 2021, 12:45 AM