Following evacuation flights last month, Iran has confirmed that it has resumed flights between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Reports suggest that commercial flights between the two countries resumed today, September 15th.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the semi-official mouthpiece of the Government of Iran, the Fars News Agency revealed the resumption. In its statement, the Fars News Agency said:
“Today, Mahan Air carried passengers between Mashhad and Kabul airport. At present, this airliner is returning to Mashhad with passengers.”
Located in the northeast of the country, Mashad is the second-largest city in Iran and home to around 3.6 million people. Before the Iranian government decided to suspend commercial flights between Iran and Afghanistan on August 16, 2021, Mahan Air operated two flights a week between Mashhad International Airport (MHD) and Hamid Karzai International Airport (KBL).
The flight did not appear on tracking sites
Limited ADSB coverage in the region meant the flight did not appear on flight tracking services. Reports out of the Afghan capital only say that a Mahan Air plane landed at KBL this morning. A Middle Eastern news website quotes Iran’s Tasnim news agency as saying:
“This is the first time since the fall of the Ashraf Ghani government that a plane arrives in Kabul from Iran. On this flight, 14 passengers were transferred to Kabul on this flight.”
Other than this, no further details were made available.
A PIA flight arrived in Kabul
Two days ago, a Pakistan International Airlines flight arrived in Kabul from Islamabad, and it too only had a handful of passengers. According to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist on the flight, there were more crew members than passengers on the inbound flight to Kabul.
The aircraft was chartered by the World Bank to bring back families of its employees. On the return leg, there were reportedly around 100 people who boarded the 777 back to Islamabad.
The Taliban needs the airport to reopen
When the Taliban arrived in Kabul last month, Kabul Airport was severely damaged during the chaotic evacuation of 120,000 people. As thousands of people stormed the airport to get out of the country, passenger terminals, air bridges, and technical infrastructure were severely damaged.
Since the final American forces left on August 30th, the Taliban have struggled to reopen the airport. They know that the airport’s reopening will be a crucial test for the regime and have reached out to Qatar and other nations for assistance.
However, the news out of Doha suggests that Qatar will not take the job of reopening Kabul Airport without binding agreements from the Taliban and all other factions. Reports also indicate that the Taliban have approached Turkey to help get the airport open again. The problem is that the Taliban wants to maintain complete control of the security at the airport, which makes the proposition less palatable in Ankara.
The Taliban has repeatedly promised that any individual with the correct paperwork can enter and leave Afghanistan freely, a test the world will closely watch.
It is evident that Kabul Airport needs to reopen; the question is, who will do it? Who do you think the Taliban will get to reopen Kabul Airport? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.