After a two-month delay and more negotiating with the Taliban, Qatar has resumed its evacuation effort from Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan.
Finally, a bit of good news in this otherwise rather dire scenario. Qatar Airways have been allowed to resume evacuating civilians out of Afghanistan after a disagreement with the Taliban in December saw evacuation efforts halted. Initially, the Taliban had been in dispute with the airline over who should be allowed out on these flights, and when coupled with fears that ‘opportunistic travellers’ had been sneaking out on said flights, the Taliban decided to put the two weekly flights from Kabul to Doha on pause. Before this took place, the airline had been transporting citizens from countries like the US and UK, as well as Afghans, out of the country as per a ‘safe passage’ deal Qatar secured with the Taliban after their takeover. Commercial travel is still present at Kabul airport, with between four and nine flights leaving the airport primarily from flag carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines alongside Kam Air, the largest private airline in the country. However, It should be noted that these are mainly domestic routes, with a few exceptions to destinations such as New Delhi.
Qatar’s efforts had already seen 120,000 people evacuated before the last US soldier left the country on the 30th of August, marking the end of a war that had raged for 20 years. Understandably, people were desperate to flee the country and escape the oppressive and violent regime the Taliban have begun to install – with the scars from their last takeover still fresh in the minds of many. Some of the laws the Taliban have forced onto the people of Afghanistan include banishing women from
higher education and executing anyone who opposes their rule. The punishments for breaking their laws are often swift and severe, leaving no room for diplomacy, or human rights for that matter. You can sympathise with the need to leave such a situation, then. Indeed, many people have been fleeing the country in any way they can, leading to horrific scenes such as the video of people falling off of outbound aircraft in a desperate bid to flee. In the face of all this, Qatar’s evacuation flights are a lifeline to those with the option to leave via the safe passage deal. The United Nations received a report on Monday claiming that the Taliban had executed 100 Afghanis with ties to the previous government, arousing fears for the thousands of other citizens who have ties to the US military. For them, these flights are more than just an option to escape one of the worst humanitarian crises in 23 years, they will quite literally save their lives. The US has already praised Qatar’s efforts in acting as an intermediary between the country and the Taliban, and after Qatar’s ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani visited the US to talk to Biden on Monday – it would seem that the relationship between the two countries has been strengthened by these events. I hope that this stronger relationship doesn’t lead the Taliban to suspect Qatar airways of plotting against them, and that their evacuation flights can continue until everyone who can leave, has.