The US administration is quietly working on a trade of nearly 50 military aircraft with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in exchange for security assistance inside Afghanistan, Politico revealed.
Afghan Air Force pilots flew the US-donated aircraft to the two neighboring Central Asian countries in August last year to avoid them being captured by the Taliban.
The estimated 46 aircraft included C-208 utility aircraft, A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, as well as Mi-17, Mi-25, and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, according to satellite images analyzed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The fate of aircraft has been in limbo since, with the militant organization insisting the planes belong to Afghanistan and should be returned. The Uzbek government, however, has refused the demand, saying that the planes belong to the US.
The US is planning to give “a number of” aircraft from the lot to the countries in exchange for an agreement on border security and counterterrorism, the outlet wrote, citing an unnamed official.
According to the outlet, the possible agreement could include greater intelligence sharing between the countries and the US on terrorist networks in Afghanistan. In the long run, it could involve the stationing of American troops and aircraft in the countries.
“If I give you an airplane, then I call you and say, ‘Hey, can you tell that guy who has a cousin in Afghanistan to go look at something — that might be the nature of the relationship. That’s a hypothetical,” the outlet quoted a senior Pentagon official as saying.
“It might not be that I want to fly from there, but it might be, do I have access to networks of people that have access into Afghanistan?”
Source: The Defense Post