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Hundreds Line Up For Passports In Kabul In Subzero Temperatures

Afghans gathered outside the passport office in Kabul in October after Taliban officials announced they would start issuing passports following months of delays. The office was shut down again days later after biometric equipment broke down.

Hundreds of Afghans have braved freezing temperatures to stand in line outside the newly reopened passport office in Kabul, hoping to receive travel documents that would enable them to leave the war-ravaged country following the Taliban takeover in August.

The crowd started to gather late on December 18, according to media reports, after an official from the passport department of the Taliban's Interior Ministry told reporters that Kabul's passport office would begin issuing documents again the next day.

The issuance of passports is seen by the international community as a test of the Taliban's commitment to its pledges to allow people to leave the country amid a worsening economic and humanitarian crisis.

The Taliban initially stopped issuing passports shortly after its return to power. The passport office in Kabul was briefly opened in October, but it was shut down again days later after biometric equipment broke down.

The United States and its allies evacuated tens of thousands of foreigners and at-risk Afghans ahead the chaotic end of the U.S.-led military presence in Afghanistan in late August following two decades of war.

But thousands more people want to leave the country, with those who worked closely with Western militaries seen to be in particular danger from Taliban retaliation.

A U.S. State Department official recently told The Wall Street Journal that at least 62,000 Afghans seeking asylum in the United States remain in Afghanistan, and that 33,000 had been vetted and approved for evacuation.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters