A charter plane carrying some 200 foreigners has landed in the Qatari capital Doha, after leaving Afghanistan's capital Kabul earlier on Thursday. It was the first such large-scale departure since US and other forces completed their frantic withdrawal at the end of August.
The Qatar Airways flight to Doha marked a breakthrough in the bumpy coordination between the US and Afghanistan’s new rulers. It was the first of its kind since the huge airlift enabled the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in the wake of the Taliban's return to power.
The passengers included around 100 Americans, the White House said. US green card holders and other nationalities including Britons, Germans, Hungarians and Canadians are also said to have been on the flight.
TV pictures filmed by Al Jazeera at Kabul airport showed families including women, children and elderly people, waiting to board with their luggage.
Qatar and Turkey have intensified efforts in recent days to get the Afghan capital's airport up and running again, in particular to enable humanitarian aid operations to resume.
"We hope that in the near future the airport will be ready for all kinds of commercial flights," said Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
“I can clearly say that this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan as Kabul airport is now operational," said Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, adding that another commercial flight would leave on Friday.
A foreign diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said another 200 foreigners including Americans would depart in the next couple of days.
The past few days have seen a stand-off over charter planes at another airport, that left dozens of passengers stranded and cast doubt on Taliban assurances to allow foreigners and Afghans with proper travel documents to leave the country.
It remains uncertain what the resumption of international flights will mean for the tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to flee Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders over fears of what their rule will hold.
The departure of Western troops was accompanied by scenes of chaos as thousands tried to flee the Taliban. Images of Afghans plunging to their deaths after clinging to military aircraft, and a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, came to define the fraught end to America’s two-decade war.