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A sign of optimism since the first flight fled from Kabul airport this Thursday

Kabul airport

First international passenger flight, alone jetliner lifted off from Kabul’s airport on Thursday, since American forces ended their 20-year presence in Afghanistan. The event took place ten days after the chaotic evacuation of Afghanistan came to an end. 

After The departure of the chartered Qatar Airways Boeing 777, with citizens of many countries like Americans, Canadians, and Britons on board. According to some experts, this is a sign that Taliban-ruled Afghanistan might be poised to re-engage with the world, even as reports emerged that the group was intensifying its crackdown on dissent.

Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, a special envoy from Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gave a statement in a news conference on the tarmac that, ”Kabul Airport is now operational”. Qatari and Turkish personnel have been recently working with the Taliban to repair the damaged areas and make the airport functional again. But just more than a week ago, the facility was a scene of frantic desperation as people jockeyed to find seats on the last commercial and military planes out.

When the last evacuation flight left Kabul just before midnight Aug. 30, it left behind a ghost town of an airport, strewn with damaged equipment and the abandoned possessions of evacuees. Also left behind were an unknown number of foreigners and Afghans desperate to leave — but with no way out.

Mr. Al-Qahtani appeared at pains Thursday to point out the difference between then and now. This, he said, was not an evacuation. “We are speaking about free passage,” he said. “We want people to feel that this is normal.”

But for all the diplomat’s talk of a new era, by day’s end, only a single planeload of passengers had left the country, and “normal” seemed far away for a country just taken over by militants who are feared by many Afghans and who are shunned by much of the world.

More flights were promised in the days ahead. But an untold number of people remained in limbo, including at the airport in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where dozens of Americans and hundreds of Afghans were waiting for the Taliban to let them leave on charter flights.

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