Afghan pilots fleeing the Taliban leave Tajikistan for an Arab country

On Tuesday, a former US military official said that the United States helped transfer more than 140 Afghan Air Force pilots and other military personnel who have been detained in Tajikistan since mid-August, after fleeing Afghanistan.

And the New York Times quoted David Hicks, a retired Air Force officer who leads a volunteer group that helped the Afghans, that a plane carrying the pilots and others left the capital, Dushanbe, on Tuesday, after a long delay.

The New York Times reported that the flight to the UAE ended a three-month ordeal for a large group of US-trained pilots who flew advanced military aircraft across the Afghan border to Tajikistan last August, in the last moments of the war with the Taliban, only to end up in detention.

The newspaper says that the Afghan military were dependent on the US administration to secure their freedom after they were detained by the Tajik authorities.

The New York Times said the English-speaking pilots spoke, in WhatsApp audio, of poor conditions, inadequate food rations and limited medical care at their place of detention outside the capital, Dushanbe.

Commenting on their transfer, Hicks said: “The group felt very relieved after the trip began.” Reuters had reported last October that they would eventually be resettled in the United States.

But for many Afghans who have served with the US military, the ordeal is far from over, according to the New York Times.

Several thousand Afghan pilots and other military personnel are still hiding in Afghanistan, with some saying they have despaired of leaving Afghanistan for fear of Taliban hunting and killing of them and their families.

In telephone interviews from safe homes in Afghanistan, many pilots spoke of moving from house to house to avoid detection, daring to look for work for fear of being tracked down by militants.

The Taliban had announced a general amnesty for any Afghan who served in the previous government, the army, or worked with the Americans. But several pilots have been killed by the movement this year, the New York Times noted.

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