President Joe Biden’s National Security Council (NSC) said in a press release Thursday that the Taliban have been “cooperative” in helping get Americans out of Afghanistan after a flight carrying dozens of Americans was cleared to leave the country.
The Taliban had been holding up the Qatar Airways flight for several days at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, preventing 200 people, roughly 30 of which are American, from leaving Afghanistan. It was the first commercial flight to depart Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country.
NSC spox Emily Horne confirms that a chartered Qatar Airways flight took off from Kabul & safely landed in Qatar. Horne says “the Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents,” calling it “a positive first step.”
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) September 9, 2021
The flight was reportedly cleared to leave in part due to pressure from the U.S., particularly the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had previously said the Taliban were concerned that some of the passengers did not have the required documentation needed to leave the country.
“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA,” read the statement from NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne Thursday. “They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step.” (RELATED: REPORT: State Dept. Won’t ‘Provide An Approval’ For Private Evacuation Flights From Afghanistan)
“We are deeply grateful to the continued efforts of Qatar in facilitating operations at HKIA and helping to ensure the safety of these charter flights,” Horne added. “We have been working intensely across the U.S. government to ensure the accuracy of the manifest and the safe departure and transit of the aircraft, and today’s safe flight is the result of careful and hard diplomacy and engagement.”
The Biden administration has held back on criticism of the Taliban as it works to evacuate the remaining Americans trapped in Afghanistan without a military footprint on the ground. While the Taliban has been carrying out reprisal violence against Afghans who worked with Americans during the war and has cracked down on women’s rights, Biden administration officials have continually referred to the militant operation as “businesslike” and cooperative. (RELATED: Poll: Afghanistan Veterans Rate Biden Lower Than Trump, Obama, Bush On Handling Of Country)
Blinken did express concern Wednesday during a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that the Taliban’s announced interim cabinet does not include any women. He did not address the fact that the cabinet includes multiple United Nations-designated terrorists and members of U.S.-designated terrorist organizations.