More than 140 Afghan Air Force pilots and crew arrested in Tajikistan has been half August after flight from Afghanistan flown out of the country tuesday with the help of the US authorities, according to a retired US Air Force officer who leads a volunteer group die helped the Afghans.
The flight, bound for the United Arab Emirates, ended a three months ordeal for the US-trained military personnel, who had flown American-supplied planes to Tajikistan to escape the Taliban only to end up in guardianship.
The Afghans said they were counting on The United States government to secure their freedom after being detained by the Tajik authorities after the Taliban in had seized power in their home land and they fled, fearing reprisals.
In WhatsApp audio recordings made on smuggled cell phones, the English-speaking pilots described poor conditions, insufficient food rations and limited medical care at the place where they were held outside the capital, Dushanbe.
Brig. Gene. David Hicks, a retired Air Force officer who is chief executive of Operation Holy Promise, said a plane met the Afghans had left Dushanbe on Tuesday night, US Eastern time, after a long delay.
“To be just Sun great relief for the entire team knowing they get out of this period of uncertainty and taking first step in their . to start new lives,” said General Hicks. Hopefully they will all be reunited with their families soon.”
But for many Afghans who worked with The United States military, the ordeal is not over.
Several thousand Afghan Air Force pilots and crew members remain in to hide in afganistan, with some say they feel abandoned by the US military, their long time combat rose. They say they are desperate to leave Afghanistan because they and their families are on… risk of be hunted down and killed by the Taliban.
In telephone interviews from hiding places in Afghanistan, various Afghan Air Force pilots described moving by house until house until avoid detection. They said they were running out of money and didn’t dare to look for work because they were afraid of being discovered by the militants.
The Taliban have said 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 Afghan Air Force pilots are killed by the Taliban this year.
General Hicks said that the flight with which Tajikistan on Tuesday was arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that… also assisted in the evacuation in September of a separate group of Afghan pilots and crew members who has flown to Uzbekistan. Those Afghans were brought to a US military base in the United Arab Emirates.
The Taliban had pressured Uzbekistan to return the pilots and crew members to Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request on Tuesday for comment.
On Sunday, a department spokesperson did not offer a timeline for moving the Afghans, but said US officials spoke regularly with Tajikistan government. The spokesperson said the US government had verified the identities of the approximately 150 Afghans after obtaining access to them in half October.
Many Afghan pilots were trained in the United States to fly US supplied military planes and helicopters. The United States spent more then $8 billion train and equip the Afghan Air Force, but the pilots and planes were overwhelmed by the demands of supporting a US-trained army that quickly collapsed when the Taliban fell one provincial capital after another this summer.
Understand the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban Rise 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.
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 in August. But a lot more were not in able to get out, despite efforts by their former advisors for help them.
Ever since half August, General Hicks said, Operation Sacred Promise helped evacuate about 350 Afghans. The group vetted about 2,000 Afghan Air Forces personnel and their relatives die trying to leave Afghanistan with about 8,000 more has yet to be vetted, he said.
The status of the Afghan Air Force plane flew to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan remains not clear.
During the collapse of Afghanistan, about 25 percent of Afghan Air Force planes were flown to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, according to an Oct. 31 report from the Special Inspector General for Afghan reconstruction. General Hicks estimated the number at 56 to 60 aircraft.
U.S. Troops Disabled 80 others at Kabul . airport in end of August.
Bryant Rousseau, Michael Crowley and Eric Schmitt contributed coverage.
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