Qatar has reached an agreement with the Taliban to resume chartered evacuation flights from Afghanistan, ending a dispute that resulted in a months-long pause, according to a report.
Axios news agency, citing an interview with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, reported on Monday that Qatar and the Taliban had agreed to operate two chartered Qatar Airways flights per week.
The agreement is expected to allow thousands of vulnerable Afghans and foreign citizens to be evacuated from the country following the chaotic withdrawal by United States troops and other foreign forces in August last year, when the Taliban took the capital, Kabul, following a lightning-fast offensive across the country.
The update comes after Axios reported last week that the US plans to up its evacuation and resettlement efforts again.
Qatar had since September operated sporadic chartered flights from Kabul. However, those flights had stopped in early December amid a dispute with the Taliban over which passengers were being permitted on the flights, according to Reuters news agency. The first evacuation flight in months took off from Kabul bound for Doha on January 26, it reported.
Axios’s interview with Sheikh Mohammed followed a White House meeting on Monday between US President Joe Biden and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
US officials have repeatedly praised Qatar’s role in serving as an intermediary with the Taliban, who fought the US for 20 years in Afghanistan. Washington, which does not officially recognise the Taliban as the legitimate government in the country, in November announced Qatar would serve as its representative in Afghanistan.
During Monday’s meeting, Biden also notified Qatar’s leader that his administration plans to designate the Gulf country, home to the US military’s Central Command in the region, a “major non-NATO ally”. Qatar is the second country in the Gulf, after Kuwait, to receive the designation.
The status would give Doha special economic and military privileges in its relationship with Washington.
The US and other Western countries have been under pressure to increase the evacuation of Afghans who worked with foreign forces in the country and are considered particularly likely to be targeted by the Taliban.
Advocates say tens of thousands of Afghans with close ties to the US military remain in the country.
On Monday, the United Nations said it had received credible reports of the killing by the Taliban of about 100 Afghans connected to the former government since the group came to power.
The country is also in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that has left 23 million people at risk of starvation.