IEA demands return of dozens of aircraft parked in neighboring countries

Afghanistan’s ruling Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government has asked Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to return Afghan Air Force planes and helicopters that were flown to neighboring countries by fleeing pilots in August last year as the former government in Kabul collapsed.

Addressing a Ministry of Defense ceremony in Kabul on Tuesday, IEA Defense Minister Mohammad Yaqoob said his government would never agree to the aircraft being seized or used by the two countries.

“I respectfully call on [Uzbekistan and Tajikistan] not to test our patience and not to force us to take all possible retaliatory steps [to retake the aircraft],” Yaqoob said without elaborating further.

U.S.-trained Afghan air force pilots flew themselves and their families to Uzbekistan aboard more than 40 aircraft, including A-29 light attack planes and Black Hawk helicopters, just days before the IEA takeover of the country on August 15.

Uzbek authorities reported in early September they had deported hundreds of Afghan pilots and their families for illegally flying into the county aboard military aircraft.

The Afghan citizens were reportedly transferred to a U.S. military base in the United Arab Emirates under an arrangement Washington negotiated with Uzbekistan to move more than 450 Afghans.

But the fate of the aircraft remains unclear. Before the fall of the government in August, Afghanistan had more than 164 active aircraft, a large number of which were flown out of the country. Only 81 were left behind, according to Afghan media reports.