Saudi Arabia sent two aircraft carrying humanitarian aid to Afghanistan Thursday, state media reported, its first such initiative since the Taliban took control of the crisis-stricken country in August.
The kingdom’s state-run King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) sent more than 65 tonnes of aid, including 1,647 food baskets, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
The centre’s supervisor general, Abdullah al-Rabeeah, said the Saudi humanitarian air bridge would see a total of six planes deliver more than 197 tonnes of aid to Afghanistan.
He said aid would also be delivered overland on 200 trucks from neighbouring Pakistan.
The Gulf Arab countries agreed during a summit in Riyadh on Tuesday to “contribute in mobilising international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people and to improving their economic conditions”.
More than half of Afghanistan’s 38 million people face “acute” food shortages, according to the United Nations, with the winter forcing millions to choose between migration and starvation.
The previous Taliban government between 1996 and 2001 imposed a very strict interpretation of Islamic law and harsh public punishments.
Saudi Arabia was one of three nations, including the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, which recognised the previous hardline Taliban regime.
But, since returning to power in mid-August after overthrowing the US-backed government, the Taliban has tried to show a more moderate face in its quest for international recognition and an end to sanctions.
Despite the lack of recognition for the Taliban government, the United States allowed some exemptions to its sanctions on Afghanistan to enable humanitarian aid to enter.