Qatar has resumed operating passenger evacuation flights from Afghanistan, a senior Qatar government source told Reuters on Thursday, after a halt of nearly two months.
The first flight, operated by Qatar Airways and chartered by the United States government, departed Kabul for Doha on Wednesday. Onboard were 227 civilians, including US citizens, green-card holders and their dependents, the source said, reported Reuters.
Qatar resumed operating civilian flights only after “extensive talks” with the Taliban government, the Qatari source said.
Doha stopped operating evacuation flights in early December amid a dispute with the Taliban over which passengers were permitted to take the flights, another source familiar with the issue told Reuters.
There were concerns that “opportunistic travellers” had boarded several Qatar-bound flights in Kabul that were intended only to evacuate civilians, a diplomatic source said.
Qatar Airways had operated one or two chartered flights between Kabul and Doha during most weeks between late September and early December.
The resumption of Qatar’s flights comes as Qatar’s ruling Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, prepares to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on 31 January.
Sheikh Tamim’s visit aims to build on relations with ally, Washington, which have strengthened since Doha played a pivotal role in evacuation efforts during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer.
Qatar and Turkey are in negotiations with the Taliban administration to manage operations at Kabul’s international airport, the land-locked country’s main international air link.