Afghanistan without civilian air traffic service, IATA cautions

Published on Aug 16, 2021 11:41 PM IST

Afghanistan shut its civilian airspace on Monday and gave control of the air traffic control to the US military as Taliban took over the presidential palace in Kabul.

People climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport on Monday to flee Afghanistan,(AFP)
People climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport on Monday to flee Afghanistan,(AFP)
By | Written by Avik Roy, New Delhi

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Monday it was closely monitoring developments in Afghanistan and stressed that the war-torn nation is "now without provision of a civilian air traffic service."

"Owing to recent developments, the Kabul FIR (Afghanistan airspace) which serves major traffic flows between Europe and Asia, is now without provision of a civilian Air Traffic Service," the IATA said in a statement.

Earlier on Monday, the Afghan authorities shut its airspace for civilian flights and allowed the airfield at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan's capital Kabul only for military use.

ALSO READ | Military evacuation flights resume, total anarchy in Kabul

However, thousands of people gathered at the airport, the only exit points out of the country not in control of the Taliban yet, in a last-ditch effort to leave the war-torn nation.

Airlines have advised IATA that they are avoiding the airspace.

"Traffic through Afghan airspace is lower than usual because of reduced demand due to Covid-19, the IATA said, adding that the countries near Afghanistan have indicated they can accommodate additional traffic.

"The use of alternative routes through these states will support safe and secure operations, but will have time, operational and fuel impacts upon airlines," the global airlines body added.

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The IATA said it is participating in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Coordinated Contingency Coordination Team (CCT), which has been activated.

"This standard protocol for managing such situations combines the resources of ICAO and IATA in the regions involved, all affected States, and Eurocontrol," the IATA said.

"Airlines normally using Afghan airspace and IATA are maintaining constant coordination and communication through the standard contingency protocols and sharing information via the IATA Global Tactical Operations Portal," it added.

ALSO READ | Air India can’t operate Kabul flight as airspace shuts down

After the chaos at the Kabul international airport earlier in the day, the US military has taken control of the air traffic control and the technical area. Only military flights and being allowed to operate in the country to evacuate diplomats and civilians even as hundreds of Afghans continued to wait at the tarmac for their turn.

Visuals shared on various social media platforms showed hundreds of people running across the airport tarmac as US soldiers fired warning shots into the air.

At least five people died in the ensuing chaos at the airport, news agency Reuters reported citing eyewitnesses who said US troops stationed there fired gunshots into the air to prevent frantic locals from boarding a civilian aircraft.

Another video, shared by Tolo News on Twitter, showed a swarm of people running on the tarmac while some clung to the body of a US military aircraft as it taxied on the runway. Local media reported that at least three people fell to their death trying to escape as stowaways in a US military aircraft.

The mayhem even prompted the US military to put on hold its evacuation process from Kabul temporarily later on Monday to clear the airfield of the crowd.

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