- The Taliban is asking airlines to resume international service to and from Kabul, promising their “full cooperation.”
- Foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said the suspension of flights left Afghans stranded abroad.
- Kabul Airport was damaged after thousands of people tried to evacuate Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday that the Taliban is asking airlines to resume commercial flights to Kabul, saying the battered airport is now “fully operational” and promising “full cooperation” with carriers, reported Reuters.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s term for their new government, is calling on international carriers to return service in and out of Kabul, according to a Twitter thread from ministry spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi. The move comes after the Islamic group seized power from the Western-backed government in August, forcing tens of thousands of evacuations from Kabul Airport in an attempt to flee extremist rule.
“As the problems at Kabul International Airport have been resolved and the airport is fully operational for domestic and international flights, the IEA assures all airlines of its full cooperation,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhihe on his Twitter account.
Kabul Airport is fully open and has been repaired with help from Qatari and Turkish technical teams, according to CNBC, though flight prices are reportedly higher than normal. According to Turkish Airlines’ website, tickets are on sale for commercial flights from Istanbul to Kabul starting October 16, with roundtrip fares starting at $787.
Meanwhile, UAE-based Flydubai has nonstop service from Dubai to Kabul scheduled to begin January 1, according to its website. However, these flights are only scheduled at this time.
“In line with directives issued by the authorities and due to the developing situation in the country, flydubai has temporarily suspended its operations to Kabul. We will continue to monitor the situation and revise our plans accordingly,” a Flydubai spokesperson told Insider.
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in mid-August, thousands of people attempted to evacuate, with many grabbing onto moving aircraft and others storming the airfield to try to enter planes. The chaos left a mess at the airport, including broken equipment and a damaged runway, forcing it to close.
In early September, Kabul Airport reopened for humanitarian aid and some domestic flights with the help of a Qatari technical team. The Taliban pledged to allow the flights to depart without incident, but shortly after opening the airport for operations, GOP lawmaker Rep. Michael McCaul told Fox News that the group would not allow six aircraft with American citizens onboard to leave.
“We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange,” he said.
However, Taliban authorities have allowed some international services to operate without issue, including a Pakistan International Airlines flight in September, which, according to CNN, was handled by Kabul airport staff and posted on boards at the airport. The “special flight” was done to promote “goodwill” between the two nations and “strengthen humanitarian efforts,” according to PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan.
On September 17, 28 Americans were permitted to leave Afghanistan on a chartered Qatar Airways flight and the Taliban was cooperative in its departure, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price. The first large-scale operation out of Kabul occurred on September 9, reported AP, which signaled breakthrough coordination between the US and Afghanistan’s new government. The flight carried over 200 foreigners, including Americans, from Kabul to Doha.