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Qatar says it’s not clear when Kabul airport will reopen

A member of the Taliban (center) walks out of an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul, on August 31, 2021, after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country (Wakil Kohsar/AFP)
A member of the Taliban (center) walks out of an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul, on August 31, 2021, after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country (Wakil Kohsar/AFP)

Qatar’s top diplomat says that experts are racing to reopen Kabul’s airport but warns that it is not clear when flights would resume, with many still desperate to flee Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders amid concerns over what their rule will hold.

In the wake of their rapid takeover, the Taliban have sought to calm those fears, including pledging to let women and girls attend school and allow people to travel freely. But many are skeptical, and Britain’s foreign minister stressed the importance of engaging with the new rulers to test their promises.

Kabul’s airport, a major way out of the country, is now in Taliban hands but is closed, and Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani warns that there’s still “no clear indication” of when it will reopen.

A team of Qatari and Turkish technicians flew to Kabul on Wednesday to help restart operations at the facility, which the UN says is crucial to providing the country with humanitarian assistance. It remains to be seen, however, whether any commercial airlines will be willing to offer service.

“We remain hopeful we will be able to operate it as soon as possible,” Al Thani tells reporters in Doha. “We are still in the evaluation process… We are working very hard and engaging with the Taliban to identify what are the gaps and the risks for having the airport back up and running.”

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