Afghan Pilots Who Sought Safety in Uzbekistan Transfer to U.S. Base

Afghan Pilots Who Sought Safety in Uzbekistan Transfer to U.S. Base

Taliban leaders are pressuring the Uzbek government to show over the pilots, who fear for the security of themselves and their families.

WASHINGTON — An initial group of Afghan pilots who flew themselves and their relations to safety in Uzbekistan aboard Afghan Air Force aircraft were transferred to a U.S. military base within the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, consistent with the office of Representative August Pfluger, which has been in touch with one among the pilots and his wife.

Two other groups of Afghan pilots and their relatives are expected to fly call at subsequent day approximately under an appointment the us negotiated with Uzbekistan to maneuver quite 450 Afghans.

The Afghan pilots, whom the Taliban consider among the foremost reviled members of the Afghan military for his or her role in conducting airstrikes against Taliban fighters, are caught during a delicate diplomatic tug of war since fleeing their country because the government in Kabul was collapsing last month.

Taliban leaders are pressuring the Uzbek government to show over the pilots, who fear for the security of themselves and their families. The us , for its part, has been leaning on the Uzbeks to let the Afghans leave and fulfill its pledge to secure safe passage to pivotal members of the Afghan military who fought alongside the us .

Since 2010, the Department of Defense has appropriated over $8.5 billion to develop a capable and sustainable Afghan Air Force and its special mission wing.

Former American service members, many of whom trained and served with the Afghan pilots and their maintenance crews, also as members of Congress, are working closely with the State Department to rearrange the transfers to U.S. bases within the Middle East and, ultimately, to the us .

“I’m very happy they’re getting out, but this wasn’t a smooth process,” Mr. Pfluger, a Texas Republican and former Air Force F-22 pilot, said during a interview . “The pilots were the foremost lethal a part of the Afghan military, and it’s vital to try to to whatever we will to guard them.”

Mr. Pfluger said he became involved after a constituent who is married to an Afghan pilot contacted his office. The constituent, Jerri, a U.S. citizen, met the pilot while he was training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio .

Jerri said her husband messaged her on Sunday afternoon saying he had landed at Abu Dhabi International Airport after spending a few month in Uzbekistan. He said there have been about 175 people on his flight.

“I feel such a lot better,” said Jerri, 33, a hairstylist in San Angelo , Texas, who declined to supply her full name because she feared retaliation against her husband’s relations , who remain in Kabul. “I haven’t felt this relieved during a long, long time.”

Jerri said it had been unclear when her husband would be ready to come to the us . The last time they spoke, he said he was being tested for the coronavirus and awaiting results.

“Once he’s processed out, hopefully he’ll be coming to Texas or within the U.S. somewhere, in order that we will go get him,” she said. “The ultimate goal is that he’s coming home.”

It was not immediately clear whether the group of Afghans would ultimately be transferred to the us or elsewhere.

Even if all of the pilots, their maintenance crews and relatives are safely transferred from Uzbekistan to the U.S. military evacuation pipeline out of Afghanistan, Mr. Pfluger said the fate of the quite 40 helicopters and airplanes — including A-29s and Black Hawk and Mi-17 helicopters — the pilots flew into Uzbekistan remained unsure .

“We don’t want them to fall under the hands of the Taliban or Al Qaeda,” he said.

The small but professional Afghan Air Force provided air support to beleaguered Afghan army , and also supplied and evacuated many outposts and bases across the country during the ultimate months of fighting.

But the Afghan aircrews quickly found themselves spread thin and overworked with planes that were increasingly grounded after American military contractors who provided most of the aircraft maintenance left when a majority of U.S. troops departed in early July.