Approximately 200 Afghan dual nationals — including about 30 Americans — have been granted permission to leave the country on Qatar Airways to Doha on Thursday, according to unnamed officials in Kabul who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Qatari officials gave lower estimates of passengers leaving, saying that Taliban authorities will allow between 100 and 150 Americans to fly out from Kabul in the coming hours.
The airport has been declared repaired and ready for commercial flights as the U.S. has pressured the Taliban to allow departures.
The dual nationals on the manifest also included passport holders from Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Canada and Germany.
Mutlaq al-Qahtani, Doha’s special envoy to Afghanistan, told reporters that it should no longer be seen as an “evacuation” but rather free passage for those with valid travel documents. “We want people to think this is normal.”
“I can say this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan, as the Kabul airport is now operational,” he said. “We want to have a gradual reopening of the airport.” He said he expected another flight on Friday.
The Daily Beast is reporting that several of the passengers are female Afghan athletes who have been banned from participating in sports by the Taliban.
On Wednesday, Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy head of the Taliban cultural commission, said Afghanistan’s national women’s cricket team would likely not be allowed to compete in upcoming matches. “I don’t think women will be allowed to play cricket because it is not necessary that women should play cricket,” he said in a statement. “In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this.”