Massive queues outside passport department as Taliban introduces ‘offline applications’

KABUL, Afghanistan — Hundreds of Afghans faced long waits in queues outside the Taliban-run passport department in Kabul on Wednesday, following the Taliban’s introduction of an offline passport application process, designated for Wednesdays.

The Taliban announced that the department would accept passport applications only on Wednesdays, warning of a possible suspension of the process if there is an overwhelming surge in applicants.

Many individuals, including those seeking medical treatment or looking to leave Afghanistan under Taliban rule, have encountered difficulties. Some have been turned away by Taliban members.

Nazir Gul, 76, who had been waiting for hours, shared his experience: “I am not feeling well. I was not allowed to enter the office. I decided not to move forward and come back.”

The switch to offline passport distribution was reportedly due to delays caused by the online system. Fida Mohammad, a passport applicant, expressed frustration: “I applied online but couldn’t get to Kabul in time. Now, I’m waiting in line and unsure when I’ll receive my passport.”

Many residents, including Rafiq from Kabul, reported waiting nearly two years for their passports under the previous process. The demand for passports has increased, with residents from other provinces traveling to Kabul.

Abdul Karim Hasib, head of the Taliban’s passport department, acknowledged past challenges with online registration and urged citizens to be patient, warning of a potential halt to the distribution process.

“In the first step, we begin on Wednesdays. Applicants submit their forms and receive an appointment sticker. We aim to finalize their procedures within one to two weeks,” Hasib explained.

Previously, Afghan passport departments under former governments distributed passports daily.

In a related development, reports in April 2023 indicated that three million blank Afghan passports stored in Lithuania were awaiting coordination for delivery with the European Union, the U.S. State Department, and Kabul.