Several passenger jets arrived on Thursday morning in Kabul as Taliban officials said that American passport holders and other foreigners would soon be able to fly out of the international airport there, the first passenger flights to leave Afghanistan since the frenzied U.S. military evacuation drew to a close late last month.
A U.S. official familiar with the negotiations but who spoke only on the condition of anonymity said that about 200 people had been cleared to leave and that they included Americans and other third-country nationals.
Bilal Karimi, a close aide to the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that three flights from Persian Gulf nations had landed at the airport and that more were expected. They arrived with desperately needed humanitarian aid, Mr. Karimi said, and would be allowed to take off when technical issues involving the radar at the airport had been resolved.
He did not say whether Americans or other foreigners, or Afghans with dual citizenship, would be on the planes when they depart, but he did say that they would be allowed to leave the country as operations at the airport resume.
Mr. Karimi cautioned that technical issues could still result in delays in the planes’ taking off.
While the move would be the first step in resolving a diplomatic impasse that has left scores of Americans and other international workers stranded in Afghanistan, there was no indication that the Taliban would allow the tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify for emergency American visas to leave.
It also remained unclear whether charter flights from the airport in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where dozens of Americans and hundreds of Afghans were waiting to leave the country, would be allowed to fly.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the Taliban bore the entire blame for the inability of charter flights to leave Mazar-i-Sharif.
“The Taliban are not permitting the charter flights to depart,” Mr. Blinken said. “They claim that some of the passengers do not have the required documentation. While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground without an airport with normal security procedures in place, we are going to do everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground.”
The Taliban blamed the Americans for the delays and said that as U.S. forces left last week, they rendered the radar and other equipment at the Kabul airport inoperable.
Engineers from Qatar, alongside workers from Turkey, have been working to repair the damage and to come up with a security protocol that would allow international passenger flights to resume.