The runway was repaired with the help of a team of Qatari and Turkish technicians, allowing flights to be operated from the Afghan capital to the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar on Saturday despite no functioning radar system.
Three more are scheduled to the same provinces on Sunday. It remains to be seen, however, whether any commercial airlines will be willing to offer services.
Reopening the airport has been a key priority for the Taliban as they seek to restore order to Afghanistan following their lightning seizure of Kabul on August 15.
More importantly, it will facilitate the arrival of international aid, which will be crucial in helping to avert what the United Nations called a ‘looming humanitarian catastrophe’.
Many Afghans were already struggling to feed their families long before the Taliban toppled the Ghani government due to a severe drought.
Aid agencies say millions may now face starvation after the country was left isolated and its economy unravelling. A number of banks have either remained closed or been left in short supply of cash.
Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) country director in Afghanistan, said that since the takeover, civil servants’ have not been paid, the currency has depreciated, and banks have limited weekly withdrawals to £144.
She said: ‘Since August 15, we have seen the crisis accelerate and magnify with the imminent economic collapse that is coming this country’s way.’
A UN official who has worked in Afghanistan, but declined to be named, told the Reuters news agency: ‘The Taliban depend on the UN and they know it – they can’t feed the population.’
The WFP is urgently seeking to raise £144 million for Afghanistan, warning that its supplies will run out there by October as winter sets in.
Western powers have said they are prepared to engage with the Taliban and send aid, but add that formal recognition of the new regime and broader financial assistance must be pragmatic and based on the group’s actions.
The House of Commons will return from its summer recess on Monday, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to come under renewed pressure to explain their response to the crisis and to explain how they will help more people leave the country.
More than 8,000 former Afghan staff and their family members eligible under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) were among the 15,000-plus people evacuated by the UK since August 13.
But thousands of Afghans who helped British efforts in the nation and their relatives, as well as other vulnerable civilians, are feared to have been left behind.
Following talks between Mr Johnson and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte, a Downing Street spokesman said on Friday evening: ‘They discussed the situation in Afghanistan and agreed on the need for a co-ordinated international effort to prevent a humanitarian emergency in the region.
‘The leaders both stressed that any recognition of the Taliban must be predicated on them upholding human rights and allowing safe passage out of the country.
‘They agreed to work together to re-establish an international diplomatic presence in Afghanistan as soon as the political and security environment allows.’
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