When Kabul fell under the Taliban in august, the young Pilot of the Afghan Air Force flew met his PC-12 turboprop from Afghanistan to neighboring Tajikistan to escape. Like other Afghan officers who escaped in tens of military plane to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the pilot was confident in those are american military partners would save him.
“We believed in The United States military and government — that they would help us and get us out of this situation,” said the pilot, a lieutenant, who, like other pilots in this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
The lieutenant is one of 143 Afghan pilots and crew members die are now detained by the Tajik authorities. They are English speakers trained by the US Air Force, and they count on the American government of military to evacuate them, and also until help evacuate their families back home in Afghanistan.
Several thousand other Afghan Air Force pilots and crew members are in to hide in Afghanistan, feeling abandoned by the US military, their long time combat rose. They say that they and their families are on… risk of to be hunted down and killed by the Taliban.
“I stood shoulder to shoulder” with my American allies for five years — but now they’ve forgotten us”, an Afghan Air Force captain who piloted C-208 aircraft said via the phone from a safe house in Kabul.
Several other pilots who phone call from Afghanistan said they hadn’t heard from the US government. But they said they were assisted by their… former military advisors, many of they volunteers in An group called Operation Holy Promise, formed to help get Afghan Air Force personnel until safety.
Brig. Gene. David Hicks, a retired Air Force officer who is chief executive of Operation Holy Promise, said the… group, formed in August, had received desperate messages from stranded pilots met the question of The United States government had a plan to get them safety.
“We found out that there was no plan by the US to do anything to get these people outsaid General Hicks, who once commanded over the US-led air force education mission in Afghanistan.
He said: “The US has spent millions and millions on these highly educated and highly motivated individuals. Based on what they did in the fight against the Taliban, we think they deserve priority.”
A spokesman for the State Department did not offer a timeline on moving Afghan pilots, but said on Sunday: “We are… in regular communication with the government of Tajikistan, and share of die communication involves coordination in response to Afghan Air Force pilots.”
The spokesperson said: “The United States has verified the identities” of about 150 Afghans after obtaining access to the last group in half October.”
The United States spent $89 billion training and equipment Afghan defense and security forces, including the Afghan Air Force and its elite Special Mission Wing. A lot of of the pilots were trained in the United States.
Some pilots and crew members and their families were evacuated with the help of The United States government and military just after the Taliban takeover. But a lot more were not in able to get out, despite their efforts former advisors for help them.
Ever since half August, General Hicks said, Operation Holy Promise helped evacuate about 350 Afghans. The group vetted about 2,000 Afghan Air Forces personnel and their relatives die trying to leave the country with about 8,000 more has yet to be vetted, he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Safia Ferozi, a squadron commander of the Afghan Air Force who was evacuated to the United States with her husband — also a pilot – and daughter, said she was flooded? with panicked phone calls and texts from Afghan pilots in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
“They fought side by means of side with the Americans,” said Colonel Ferozi in a telephone interview. “Now they feel forgotten. Why does the US not care about this? people who fought alongside them?”
In September, a group of Afghan pilots and crew members was evacuated from Uzbekistan with the help of The United States government and Operation Holy Promise after being detained by Uzbek authorities.
But another group of 143 Afghan Air Force personnel remains in detention in a sanatorium in near the Tajik capital Dushanbe. They said they were growing desperate, although US embassy officials in Dushanbe had recently arrived in record their biometric data as part of an attempt to evacuate them.
“The morale among us colleagues here is very low,” said an Afghan Air Force major who flew a C-208 military plane to Tajikistan. “We are in An unknown situation and we don’t know what will happen next until us.”
The major and some other pilots spoke on WhatsApp audio messages recorded on smuggled cell phones hidden of guards. They said they have the facility where most cell phones in were seized were not allowed to leave. They survive on lean food rations and receive only basic medical care, they said.
Many have not been in to touch with their families in Afghanistan, some of who not? know of they’re still alive, they said.
“We feel abandoned, but we still have hope that the US will help ussaid a major who said he had driven many? combat missions.
The Embassy of Tajikistan in Washington did not immediately respond to emails met the request comment.
Understand the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban have risen in 1994 amid the turmoil die came after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputations and mass executions, for their rules. Here is more on their origin story and their record as rulers.
Among those die be held in Tajikistan is an Afghan pilot who is pregnant and said she needed prenatal care. Her husband, also a pilot, was detained with her.
“We live like prisoners,” she said in an audio message recorded too late last month. “We are fed up. We become weak. ID card like to request that the US government speed up our situation here.”
During the collapse of Afghanistan about 25 percent of the Afghan Air Force planes were flown to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, according to an Oct. 31 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan reconstruction. General Hicks estimated the number at 56 to 60 aircraft. (US troops disabled) 80 others at Kabul . airport in end of August.)
The status of the aircraft is uncertain. When requested in half august what was done about it? repair the plane, secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III replied: “We are focused” on the airport and getting people out safe.”
Speaking from Afghanistan, several Afghan Air Force pilots described: moving by house until house until avoid capture by the Taliban. They said they were running out of money and didn’t dare to look for work because they feared being discovered by Taliban officials.
An Afghan Air Force Major who flew C-208 aircraft for eight years said the Taliban had confronted his relatives met the requirement to… know his residence. Taliban fighters searched his home and being interrogated mothersaid the major, who has moved with his wife and four children to a series of safe houses.
“It’s very dangerous for us here,” said the major.
He said he couldn’t reach anyone in The United States government of military, unlike his former Advisor to the United States Air Force. “Looks like we’re not that important to them anymore,” he said.
The Taliban have said that there is a general amnesty for any Afghan who served in the former government of worked with The United States government of military. But several pilots of the Afghan Air Force are murdered by the Taliban this year.
“They have no good options’ said General Hicks. “They are with” risk of to be hunted down and killed.”
An important who piloted C-208 aircraft and was trained at a US Air Force base in Texas said he turned around down An chance fly to Tajikistan in Augustus because he didn’t want to be . leave family behind. Now he and his wife and their seven children to be in hide, low on money and food.
‘Our life becomes met the day worse,’ said the major. “We can’t stay in one place. We always hide – not even our relatives know where we are.”
General Hicks said he was afraid of the pilots and crew members in Afghanistan would soon run out of money and food, and possibly freedom die they have losses left.
“There is no place for around himself in Afghanistan,” he said. “We have to realize that it is going to be a very dark winter for this people.”
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