Qatar’s foreign minister said Thursday that efforts are underway to reopen the airport in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, but cautioned it was unclear when flights would resume.
Ariana Afghan Airlines told the Agence France-Presse that its domestic flights were set to resume Friday.
A group of technicians from Qatar and Turkey had flown to Kabul on Wednesday to help reopen the airport, which is a vital link to those still seeking to flee the war-torn country and to providing humanitarian aid. It was the first foreign aircraft to land at the airport since it closed the day before for unspecified reasons.
Ross Wilson, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, is reported to have contracted the coronavirus. He was the last U.S. diplomat to leave Kabul. Wilson worked out of Kabul’s airport, to help people through the process of exiting the country after the U.S. embassy closed. Wilson’s condition since the COVID-19 diagnosis was not immediately clear.
Women in the western Afghan city of Herat protested Thursday against the Taliban, chanting, “Don’t be afraid.” Afghan women fear the Taliban will reimpose restrictions on women like wearing burqas when in public and not allowing them to work or go to school.
The U.N. World Food Program estimated last month that about one out of every three Afghans is in urgent need of food assistance.
“We remain hopeful that we will be able to operate [the airport] as soon as possible,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
Sheikh Mohammed also emphasized the need for the Taliban to “demonstrate their commitment to provide safe passage and freedom of movement for the people of Afghanistan.”
Qatar has close contacts with the Taliban and played a significant role in U.S. efforts to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan.
The foreign minister said Qatar is continuing talks with world powers to resume commercial flights at the airport. It remains to be seen whether any commercial airlines would be willing to provide service to Kabul when the airport reopens.
Turkey, which Sheikh Mohammed said he hopes will provide technical assistance, said Thursday it was “evaluating” plans to reopen the airport proposed by the Taliban and others.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said security “inside and outside” the airport remains the most important priority.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.