Joe Biden Halts Emergency Flights From Afghanistan

( For the last two weeks, the Taliban have halted all flights of Afghan evacuees over a dispute with Qatar about how the Kabul airport is run and who is permitted on the flights.

A State Department official involved in evacuation efforts confirmed that the flights have ceased but is hopeful that the dispute will be resolved shortly allowing the flights to resume.

At the heart of the dispute are the US-chartered Qatar Airways flights that have been operating between Kabul and Doha. The Taliban started to demand several seats on these flights be reserved so Taliban fighters and sympathizers could leave Afghanistan to work in other countries so they could send desperately-needed cash back home.

Currently, Afghanistan’s economy is in tatters with millions of Afghans suffering from food shortages just as winter arrives.

The Taliban argue that since they run the country, it is their airspace and airport that the Qataris are using, so it stands to reason the Taliban should be allowed to take up seats on the flights.

Before the Taliban halted the flights completely, they were using seats to transport migrant workers from Afghanistan to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other countries to find work. While the people designating who got these seats were Taliban fighters, it is not clear if the people occupying the seats were themselves Taliban fighters or merely sympathizers or civilians, or a combination of all three groups.

The chartered flights for Afghan refugees bound for the United States are operated by Qatar Airways which is the only carrier the Taliban currently permit to regularly fly out of Kabul. Before the Taliban halted the flights entirely, Qatar Airways was running about one or two refugee flights out of Kabul each week.

But when the Qatari government refused to continue providing these reserved seats, the Taliban shut down the flights entirely.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Qatar’s decision to stop allowing the Taliban to reserve seats was made at the behest of the United States. However, a State Department official says this dispute is between the Qataris and the Taliban and the US is not involved.