U.S. does not plan to hand Afghan aircraft flown to Tajikistan over to the Taliban, says U.S. ambassador
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Speaking at a press conference in Dushanbe, U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan, Mr. John Mark Pommersheim, noted on May 10 that the United States and Tajikistan have been discussing the fate of aircraft flown by Afghan fleeing pilots from Afghanistan to Tajikistan in August last year.
Ambassador Pommersheim stated that his country does not plan to hand them over to the Taliban.
“These aircraft will not be handed over to the Taliban because they do not belong to them,” US ambassador added.
The US diplomat refrained from giving further details of negotiations between Washington and Dushanbe regarding those aircraft.
Recall, Afghan media reports noted last year that before the fall of the former government, Afghanistan had over 164 active military aircraft and now only 81 are in the country. The rest were reportedly taken out of Afghanistan and brought to different countries.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reported on August 26, 2021 that over 45 Afghan Air Force aircraft were flown out of the country in mid-August, likely to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Taliban. Satellite imagery of Termez International Airport in Uzbekistan captured on August 16 reportedly revealed several dozen Afghan military assets situated on the airport’s tarmac. The platforms visible in the imagery reportedly included C-208 utility aircraft, A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, and Mi-17, Mi-25, and UH-60 helicopters.
CSIS noted that the aircraft and helicopters were no longer visible in imagery of the airport acquired on August 21, indicating that their stop in Termez, Uzbekistan, was temporary and they were relocated. Imagery acquired on September 1 of Bohktar International Airport in Tajikistan reportedly revealed that 16 of the utility/transport attack aircraft previously seen at Termez International Airport were transferred here.
Mr. John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense, noted at a briefing on January 18 this year that they are still working out the disposition Afghan army helicopters that went to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on August 15.
“… I think it's safe to assume that they will not be sent into Afghanistan to be used by the Taliban,” said Pentagon press secretary. “But as to what they end up doing and where they end up going and who ends up with them, we are still working our way through that decision-making process.”
It is to be noted that dispute over the helicopters flown out of Afghanistan between the Taliban and the governments of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan has begun a few days after they came to power in Kabul.
Acting Defense Minister in Taliban’s Interim Government, Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, said on January 11 that the military aircraft that were taken abroad should be returned.
TOLOnews says he warned that if the countries where the military aircraft were taken do not return them, “they will face consequences.”
“Our aircraft that are in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan should be returned. We will not allow these aircraft to remain abroad or to be used by those countries,” Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid said.
The Defense Ministry in the Taliban Government said that after the collapse of the former government, over 40 helicopters had been flown to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.