A US State Department spokesperson told The Hill that approximately 150 Afghan Air Force pilots and soldiers could be withdrawn from Tajikistan to be relocated from Afghanistan after a short wait of several months.
“The United States has verified the identities of approximately 150 Afghans after gaining access to the last group in mid-October,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement on Friday.
“The United States hopes to bring all identified Afghans together soon,” including the pregnant pilot who was previously reported by Reuters to be one of about 150 Afghan pilots and staff in Tajikistan.
The spokesman said that the ministry could not provide a timetable for when the pilots would leave the country, but noted that “we are in regular contact with the government of Tajikistan and some of these contacts are coordinating in response to Afghan air force pilots including Tajikistan.”
The Foreign Ministry’s statements were the first Reported by Reuters.
When the US began ending its military presence in Afghanistan in August, US-trained Afghan pilots were flown to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Reuters reported that the Afghan pilots and the other pilots stationed in Uzbekistan were later transferred to the United Arab Emirates after the United States struck a deal to transport them.
Several Afghan pilots detained in Tajikistan told the media that identity verification is the last step before the pilots are transferred to Uzbekistan, and they were recently received by US embassy officials in Tajikistan.
Afghan pilots told Reuters they were concerned about the idea of returning to Afghanistan and warned that they might be killed, despite Taliban statements claiming no harm would be done to them.
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