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Uzbekistan Completes Deportation Of Hundreds Of Afghan Pilots And Family

Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucanos fly over Kabul. Military pilots are believed to be among the members of the Afghan forces most despised by the Taliban. (file photo)

Uzbekistan has deported all Afghan military pilots and members of their families who illegally flew to safety in the Central Asian state.

Uzbek Foreign Ministry's spokesman Yusup Kobuljonov said on September 13 that the deportation of the Afghan nationals -- hundreds of people who flew to Uzbekistan aboard Afghan military aircraft -- was carried out in the last two days.

The New York Times quoted the office of U.S. Representative August Pfluger (Republican-Texas) earlier as saying that the pilots and their families were being transferred to a U.S. military base in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.).

“I’m very happy they’re getting out, but this was not a smooth process,” the congressman told the New York Times in a telephone interview. “The pilots were the most lethal part of the Afghan military, and it’s very important to do whatever we can to protect them.”

On September 12, Reuters quoted an unidentified Afghan pilot who fled Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for Uzbekistan as saying on condition of anonymity that the deportation of Afghan citizens from Uzbekistan started on September 12 and the first group was heading to the U.A.E.

The transfers came under a U.S. deal with Uzbekistan reached despite Taliban pressure for the return of the pilots and the Afghan military aircraft.

The Biden administration reached the agreement last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on September 11. According to the newspaper, the pilots and their families total 585 people.

The pilots flew their families to Uzbekistan aboard the Afghan military aircraft to escape the Taliban, who quickly overran government forces last month as the United States pulled its troops out of Afghanistan.

The United States fears the pilots could be killed if they were returned to their country.

Based on reporting by TASS, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times
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