Foreign airlines have suspended commercial flights to Afghanistan following a take-over by Taliban forces. A NATO official at Kabul airport, the last major gateway still in the hands of the government and international forces, told Reuters on Sunday, August 15, that only military aircraft would be allowed into Hamid Karzai International Airport until further notice.

A NOTAM issued by ICAO on August 16 on behalf of the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) confirmed that owing to the security situation, Kabul airport has indeed been released to the military and that no air traffic services are currently available at the airfield. In addition, as the Kabul flight information region (FIR) is now considered to be uncontrolled airspace, any aircraft that transit through it do so at their own risk. British Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines have already confirmed they will be avoiding the region.

Earlier on Sunday, flydubai, Air Arabia, and Emirates announced the suspension of their respective services to Kabul after one flight was forced to divert.

“Due to the sudden closure of the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Emirates flight EK 640 was forced to turn back to Dubai just as it was about to arrive in Kabul, on Sunday, August 15," a company spokesman said.

Iran has since said it will assess the security situation before deciding whether or not to suspend flights to its eastern neighbour. Mahan Air (W5, Tehran Mehrabad) has a flight set to operate on Monday.

Both Ariana Afghan Airlines (FG, Kabul) and Kam Air (RQ, Kabul) were active into Kabul until August 15, Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows. Bakhtar Afghan Airlines (BM, Kabul) last operated on August 14. Videos on social media have shown hundreds of Afghans on the tarmac outside various parked aircraft hoping to be evacuated.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan earlier in the day after ceding power to Taliban forces. A Tajik media outlet reported that a Kam Air jet had arrived in Dushanbe and that the entourage, which is said to include national security adviser Hamdullah Moheb, and Fazel Mahmood Fazly, the director-general of the Presidential Administration, were trying to travel to a third country. In turn, Al Jazeera reported that Ghani fled to Uzbekistan. While no ADS-B tracking sites currently corroborate these claims, a B737-500 that Kam Air had leased from Ukrainian Wings (UWJ, Kyiv Boryspil), UR-BAA (msn 28052), left Kabul late on Sunday evening, albeit heading northwest towards Turkmenistan and onwards to the Caucasus. It has since arrived at Kyiv's Boryspil airport, Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows.

The speed at which the Taliban took control of the country following the US government's decision to withdraw has left little time for an orderly evacuation of foreign nationals and their local cohorts. With the Taliban having encircled Kabul, the US Embassy released a security alert warning of reports that the airport was under fire and instructed US citizens to take shelter. Several Western countries have deployed military transport aircraft to evacuate their nationals and Afghan personnel, including Germany, which pledged to send at least two Luftwaffe A400Ms. The Aeronautica Militare Italiana, Armée de l'Air, and Royal Air Force have also sent in transport to evacuate their own respective interests.

Editorial Comment: Added final destination of UR-BAA, adjusted final operations date for Ariana and Kam Air, and added final operations date for Bakhtar Afghan Airlines. Added NOTAM update - 16.08.2021 - 13:10 UTC