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U.S. Marines during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
U.S. Marines during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. (Victor Mancill/U.S. Marine Corps)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A key route out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was cut off Thursday when Pakistan canceled its national carrier's flights between Islamabad and Kabul, citing disagreements with the Taliban.

Taliban authorities interfered with flight operations by repeatedly changing regulations, confusing permissions and limiting the number of people allowed on each flight, said Abdullah Khan, a spokesman for the Pakistani carrier.

The suspension comes after weeks of Taliban promises to allow freedom of movement to all Afghans and restore regular international flights in and out of Kabul. The Taliban took control of Afghanistan two months ago, and after the completion of U.S. evacuation flights, the group pledged that any Afghan with valid documents could travel abroad.

But hundreds if not thousands of Afghans desperate to flee the country remain unable to because of border closures, limited flights and Taliban restrictions.

Pakistan International Airlines was one of two international airlines regularly flying in and out of Kabul airport. The other is private Afghan airline Kam Air that has multiple flights a week to Islamabad. Qatar Airways also operates occasional flights between Kabul and Doha.

Khan said the decision to keep flying into Kabul was a purely humanitarian one made "against all odds." He also said the high insurance rates required to land in Kabul made it difficult to keep the flights viable without increasing ticket prices.

A Taliban statement earlier Thursday demanded that Pakistan International Airlines and Kam Air drop ticket prices to rates seen before the militant group's takeover. Flights between Islamabad and Kabul that cost around $300 earlier this year now cost well over $1,300.

The Taliban transport ministry warned that any carrier violating the new policy would have its flights blocked.

U.S. officials have repeatedly called on the Taliban to live up its pledge to allow all Afghans freedom of movement and safe passage for those seeking to leave the country.

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