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Taliban writes to India to resume commercial flights to Afghanistan

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: The Taliban has reportedly written a letter to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), asking for the resumption of commercial flights between India and Afghanistan (Kabul). The letter sent to the DGCA earlier this month, is under review by the Civil Aviation Ministry.

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Addressed to DGCA chief Arun Kumar, the letter says the Kabul airport – “left damaged and dysfunctional by American troops before their withdrawal” – had become operational with help from Qatar, and that a NOTAM (notice to airmen) in this regard had been issued on September 6.

“The intention of this letter is to keep smooth passenger movement between the two countries based on signed MoU and our National Carriers (Ariana Afghan Airline & Kam Air) aimed to commence scheduled flights. Therefore, Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority requests you to facilitate commercial flights,” acting Aviation Minister Alhaj Hameedullah Akhunzada wrote.

India had stopped all commercial flight operations to Kabul after August 15, when the extremist Islamic group swept into the Afghan capital and took effective control of the war-torn country.

So far, only a limited number of aid and passenger flights have been operating out of Kabul.

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On September 13, an international commercial flight – a Pakistan International Airlines plane – became the first passenger jet to fly in and out of Kabul in over a month.

Since then, a few others have begun flying but with ticket prices remain high, Reuters said.

Last week the Taliban appealed to other airlines as well, promising its co-operation and saying that all problems – including “damages” caused by withdrawing Western forces – had been resolved.

Taliban spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi told media that suspension of international flights had left Afghans stranded abroad and prevented people from travelling for work or study.

“As problems at Kabul International Airport have been resolved and the airport is fully operational for domestic and international flights, the IEA assures all airlines of its full cooperation,” he said.

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Repairs have been carried out with the assistance of technical teams from Qatar and Turkey, he said.

The IEA is the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – the Taliban’s term for their new government.

Earlier this month Afghan police also returned, operating checkpoints alongside Taliban forces.

A police officer told news agency AFP he had been called back to work by the Taliban, who claim to have granted a general amnesty to everyone who worked for the previous regime.

After the Taliban’s takeover, Kabul airport was flooded by tens of thousands of Afghan nationals desperately looking to flee, as well as foreign nationals and aid workers waiting to be evacuated.

The Indian government operated several such flights – in co-ordination with the Air Force and commercial airlines – bringing back hundreds of citizens, as well as refugees and foreigners.

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Heart-breaking scenes were witnessed at the height of the evacuation process, including the sight of a US Marine lifting a baby over a razor wire-topped wall at the airport.

The airport was also attacked by suicide bombers who struck at one of its gates, killing at least 60; video shot by locals showed dozens of bodies strewn around a canal on the edge of the facility.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

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