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Don't test our Patience -- Taliban warns Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to return their planes immediately
New Delhi, Jan 12: The Taliban's Defence Minister Mullah Yaqoob has warned Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to immediately return Afghan planes and choppers, which were flown away by the defence personnel of the ousted Ghani government to the two neighbouring states.
In an open threat, Yaqoob said: "We may relatively be weaker than those of our neighbour country but we are not cowardly and will take into account every single spare part of our planes and helicopters. I ask them respectfully to return our planes and helicopters and not question our patience any further and not to force us to take all possible retaliatory steps."
Yaqoob did not elaborate further but said that the Taliban regime has been asking these two countries to return these planes which they have kept illegally.
"These planes were taken out illegally. They belong to the Afghanistan air force," Yaqoob asserted. He added that the Taliban are working to reactivate the Afghan Air Force, which is reliable and will be used to protect people and the borders of Afghanistan.
More than 100 US trained Afghan air force pilots flew themselves and their families to safety in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan aboard more than 60 aircraft, including A-29 light attack planes and Black Hawk helicopters, just days before the Taliban takeover of the country on August 15.
While most of the pilots and their families were reportedly transferred to a US military base in the United Arab Emirates under an arrangement Washington negotiated with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the fate of these "seized" aircraft is still unknown.
According to Afghan media Khama Press, more than 40 percent of the Afghan Air Force's aircraft were flown out. Before the fall of the government in August, Afghanistan had more than 164 active aircraft, and only 70 were left behind. The Taliban have no trained pilots and skilled engineers to handle these planes.
Mullah Yaqoob said that his regime has been asking these pilots and engineers to return to their countries.
"We will respect you more than the previous government. You are the capital of Afghanistan. Come back, work here," said Yaqoob.
That offer rings hollow to Afghan pilots. Even before the Taliban takeover, they had become their prime targets. Taliban fighters tracked them down and assassinated a few of them.
(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)
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