Dozens of Afghan pilots are about to leave Tajikistan soon
A US State Department spokesperson told The Hill that approximately 150 Afghan Air Force pilots and servicemen could be flown out of Tajikistan after a brief wait of several months before being airlifted from Afghanistan.
“The United States has verified the identities of approximately 150 Afghans after gaining access to the last group in mid-October,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement on Friday.
“The United States hopes to collect all Afghans identified soon,” including the pregnant pilot who was previously reported by Reuters as one of about 150 Afghan pilots and staff being held in Tajikistan.
The spokesman said the ministry could not provide a timetable on when the pilots would leave the country, but noted, “We are in regular contact with the government of Tajikistan and are coordinating some of these communications in response to the Afghan Air Force pilots in Tajikistan.”
Reuters was the first to report the Foreign Ministry’s statements.
When the US began ending its military presence in Afghanistan in August, US-trained Afghan pilots were flown to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Reuters said that the Afghan pilots and others in Uzbekistan were later transferred to the United Arab Emirates after the United States concluded an agreement to transfer this transfer.
Several Afghan pilots detained in Tajikistan told the media that identity verification is the last step before the pilots are transferred to Uzbekistan, and they were recently met by officials of the US Embassy in Tajikistan.
Afghan pilots told Reuters they were worried about returning to Afghanistan and warned they could be killed, despite Taliban statements that no harm would come to them.
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