Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban government has asked Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to return air force planes and helicopters flown to the neighboring countries by fleeing pilots as the U.S.-backed government in Kabul collapsed last August.
Addressing an Afghan air force ceremony in the capital Tuesday, Taliban Defense Minister Mohammad Yaqoob said his government would never allow the aircraft to be seized or used by these 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 safety in Uzbekistan aboard more than 40 aircraft, including A-29 light attack planes and Black Hawk helicopters, just days before the Taliban 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.