The third chartered flight bringing civilians from Afghanistan to Qatar since U.S. forces withdrew last month landed on Friday with around 170 passengers on board, including U.S. and European citizens as well as Afghans, a Qatari official said.
Foreign nationals on board include those from Belgium, Britain, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy as well as the United States, the official said.
The passengers were transported to Kabul airport in a Qatari convoy after the Gulf Arab state reached a safe-passage agreement with Afghanistan’s new rulers, the Taliban, the official said.
In Doha, the passengers will initially stay in a compound that is hosting Afghans and other evacuees.
Washington’s peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, confirmed that the flight had taken more Americans out of Afghanistan, tweeting he was “grateful that more Americans were able to leave on a Qatar Airways flight.”
It’s unclear how many American nationals are still in Afghanistan, but Khalilzad tweeted “we remain committed to get them out if they want to come home.”
Previous flights to Qatar
Qatar has emerged has a key interlocutor between the West and the Taliban. The Gulf state is a close U.S. ally, hosting the largest American military base in the Middle East, and has hosted a Taliban political office since 2013.
Some 200 foreigners, including Canadians, were aboard an international commercial flight out of Kabul on Sept. 9 that marked the first such large-scale departure since U.S. and foreign forces completed their frantic withdrawal at the end of last month.
That Qatar Airways flight to Doha also included Americans, U.S. green-card holders and other nationalities, including Germans and Hungarians.
Ten more Canadians were evacuated from Afghanistan the following day on a civilian flight bound for Qatar, Canadian officials said.
Concerns about Taliban rule
Friday’s flight comes amid rising concerns over the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban.
In a statement published on Facebook Friday, the Taliban’s Education Ministry said all male students grades 6 to 12 and male teachers should resume classes across Afghanistan, starting on Saturday.
The statement did not include girls of that age, and the lack of guidance highlighted ongoing concerns that the Taliban might impose restrictions on girls and women.
Since taking power last month, the Taliban had allowed girls in grades 1 to 6 to resume classes. When they ruled Afghanistan previously in the 1990s, the Taliban had forbidden girls and women from attending school and work.
In some provinces, women still are not allowed to continue their work, with exceptions for women who have worked in health departments, hospitals and education.
Earlier this month, the Taliban declared their interim, all-male government — devoid of any women or members of the country’s minorities. The 33-member cabinet is stacked with veterans of the Taliban’s hard-line rule from the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the U.S.-led coalition.
This is unlikely to win the Taliban the international support they desperately need to avoid an economic meltdown.
Meanwhile, the United Nations’ Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution stressing that Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers need to establish an inclusive government with “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and upholding human rights.”
The resolution adopted by the UN’s most powerful body on Friday extends the current mandate of the UN political mission in Afghanistan for six months.
It also stresses “the important role that the United Nations will continue to play in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.”