Grounded flights in northern Afghanistan have ‘nothing to do’ with ‘inaction’ by US government: State Dept.

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The State Department on Thursday said the grounded flights in Afghanistan have “nothing to do with any inaction or action by the part of the United States government” as thousands remain stranded across the Taliban-controlled nation. 

“The United States has pulled every lever available to us to facilitate the departure of these charter flights,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “We are very clear that we want to see the Taliban permit those who have expressed a desire to leave in this way to do so.”

The spokesman’s words came just hours after a first flight was allowed to leave the Hamid Karzai International Airport, outside of Kabul, since the U.S. withdrawal of all forces and personnel on Aug. 31. 

Qatar Airways chartered the flight with U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) aboard, Price confirmed. The State Department official could not verify how many Americans or LPRs were on board. 

Prior to the departure of the Qatar Airways charter flight, the Taliban had barred anyone from leaving the country, even if they had the required documentation. 

The grounded flights in Kabul prompted roughly 1,000 people to flock to the Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport in the north of Afghanistan, where other chartered planes have also remained at a standstill, reported Reuters earlier in the week.

“We are very focused on seeing to it with our Qatari and Turkish partners that the airport in Kabul can again resume fuller activity,” Price said.

The spokesman said the department has heard public statements from its Qatari allies that more evacuation flights will be conducted but did not say when these flights could take off. 

“From our perspective, we are doing everything that we can,” Price said. “We are supporting our Qatari partners, we’re engaging with the Taliban, we’re working with the international community to see to it that there are no obstacles to any such future charter flights going forward.”

The U.S. has evacuated 124,000 individuals – including 6,000 Americans – since the withdrawal efforts began in late July.

Price said the U.S. will continue to “invite” Americans who wish to leave the collapsed state to do so with the aid of the State Department. 

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