Kabul airport re-opens for domestic flights as Taliban battles resistance fighters

Kabul’s airport reopened with domestic flights taking off Saturday after a team of engineers from Qatar repaired parts of the airport’s air traffic control system last week, according to Muhammad Salim Saad, the Taliban commander in charge of airport security. But the Qatari foreign ministry said Qatari technical officials had prepared the airport for international humanitarian flights.

“There’s no radar, no navigation systems in place,” said Capt. Ghirlandaio Jailani Wafa, a top aviation official at Kabul airport. He said a few domestic flights were able to resume after Qatari engineers set up temporary radio communications between air traffic controllers and pilots last week. But pilots have to navigate flights’ landing and take off visually.

Taliban fighters took control of several strategic districts during intense fighting Saturday against resistance fighters in the northern Panjshir Valley, the last remaining province in Afghanistan holding out against the Islamist group. If the valley falls, the Taliban would control the country fully, which it never managed during its rule from 1996 to 2001.

A humanitarian aid flight from the United Arab Emirates landed at the airport Saturday, and a humanitarian flight from Qatar arrived Saturday according to the Qatari Foreign Ministry. The Qatari aid included 17 tons of medical aid, food stables and baby formula, it said.

Pilots with Afghanistan’s national carrier “Ariana Afghan Airlines” are gradually expanding their domestic routes, according to pilot Capt. Nader Omar. “We have enough airline crew to conduct our normal operations,” he said, adding there may be a shortage of air traffic controllers. Domestic flights flew from Kabul to Mazar-e Sharif and Herat on Saturday, and on Sunday a flight is planned to Kandahar [Seattle Times].


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