200 passengers leave Kabul in first airlift since US pullout

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Some 200 passengers, including US citizens, left Kabul airport on Thursday, on the first flight carrying foreigners out of the Afghan capital since a US-led evacuation ended on August 30.

The flight to Doha comes as the Taliban continue their transition from insurgents to governing power, less than a month after they marched into Kabul and ousted former president Ashraf Ghani.

Thursday afternoon’s Qatar Airways flight took some 200 people from Kabul’s airport — the first since a mammoth, chaotic airlift of more than 120,000 people came to a dramatic close with the US pullout.

An Afghan-American dual citizen, waiting to board the flight with his family, said the US State Department had called him in the morning and told him to go to the airport.

“We got in contact with the State Department, they gave me a call this morning and said to go to the airport,” the father, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag tweeted to thank the Qatari government “for making this possible”, saying 13 of its nationals were on board the flight.

In the days that followed the Taliban’s blitz, the airport had become a tragic symbol of desperation among Afghans terrified of the militants’ return to power — with thousands of people crowding around its gates daily, and some even clinging to jets as they took off.

More than 100 people were killed, including 13 US troops, in a suicide attack on August 26 near the airport that was claimed by the Islamic State group’s local chapter.