Afghan Skies Go Dark as Airlines Steer Clear of Taliban Airspace

The political unrest happening on the ground is also affecting Afghan skies.

International news has been flooded with reports on the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Kabul has fallen, the U.S. troops have retreated, and thousands of Afghan civilians and foreign diplomats are rushing to leave the newly conquered Taliban territory.

The political unrest happening on the ground is also affecting Afghan skies after the Taliban canceled all commercial flights at Hamid Karzai International (Kabul) Airport. In response to the tense situation in Kabul, commercial airlines and cargo planes not destined for Kabul have also begun circling around the country’s borders to avoid Afghan airspace altogether.

Courtesy of real-time flight tracker map Flightradar24, here’s a quick look of how airlines began rerouting flights in the first hours of the Fall of Kabul.

In the matter of two days, flight routes in and around Afghan airspace has drastically decreased. Here’s a look at a two-day time-lapse:


And here’s what it looks like now (August 17). Afghan skies go dark.

Photo by Flightradar24.

What is happening at Kabul airport?

Chaos is rampant on the ground despite the relative ease in which the Taliban took down the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. By now, you’ve probably seen the stark images and videos of Afghan citizens flocking to the Hamid Karzai International (Kabul) Airport, climbing airstairs and gangways, even hanging on to the bottom of the last airplanes to leave Kabul. Two individuals who clung to the outside of a moving airplane eventually fell to their deaths, showing just how desperate some Afghans are to escape the new order.

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Almost immediately after the Fall of Kabul, the Afghan National Army and Police abandoned the airport, leaving it to the administration of the U.S. military. The Pentagon was able to negotiate a deal with Taliban forces to allow refugees to flee to the Kabul airport, which briefly canceled all of its commercial flights on August 16, but resumed flights on Tuesday morning, August 17. Only military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians are being cleared for departure as the airline industry is giving Afghan airspace a wide berth.

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Anri Ichimura
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