US welcomes exiled Afghan military pilot

A group of Afghan pilots and their families taking refuge in Uzbekistan are moved to a base in the UAE with the help of many US veterans.

The United States and Uzbekistan have reached an agreement to transfer 450 Afghan nationals, including former Afghan air force pilots and their relatives, to bases in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The first group was removed on September 12, while the next two groups could be evacuated in the next few days.

“I’m glad they were rescued, but it’s not a smooth process. Pilots are the best and most important people in the Afghan army, it’s important to do everything to protect them,” the MP said. Texas state August Pfluger, a former US F-22 fighter pilot, said.

A refugee camp of Afghan soldiers in Uzbekistan in a satellite image on August 29.  Photo: Maxar.

A refugee camp of Afghan soldiers in Uzbekistan in a satellite image on August 29. Photo: Max.

Many US veterans and congressmen, including those who trained and fought with Afghan military personnel, worked with the State Department to arrange the evacuation of Afghan pilots, technicians and relatives of Afghan pilots. they arrive in the UAE, before helping them enter the US.

Afghan military pilots have been a prime target of the Taliban’s assassination since before the group took control of all of Afghanistan. Many people were killed while leaving their bases or homes.

In the last hours before the Taliban entered the capital, Kabul, a series of Afghan pilots fled to Uzbekistan on 46 planes of all kinds, accounting for more than a quarter of the country’s 160 capable aircraft force. this. Most came from Kabul, with some flying from their base in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif as Taliban fighters entered the airport after crushing defenses outside.

These people were all taken to a refugee camp in the Uzbek city of Termez. One pilot, who asked not to be named, said they all felt like prisoners because of limited mobility, long hours of sun exposure, not enough food and medicine, and having to hide communication devices such as: mobile phone. Some people have lost significant weight.

Satellite images in late August show the high walls surrounding the barracks, where refugee Afghan soldiers live in buildings once used to treat Covid-19 patients. Pictures taken inside show the rooms are almost empty, only fitted with bunk beds, because most of the Afghan soldiers who come here do not bring luggage or personal belongings.

Many U.S. officials and former officials have criticized the government for not evacuating Afghan personnel and equipment in Uzbekistan, warning that the Taliban could pressure Uzbek authorities to return the exiled pilot and plane. territory of this country.

Vu Anh (Follow New York Times)

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