Some pilots from the U.S.-backed Afghan Air Force (AAF) claim to have received deaths threats from Taliban terrorists, prompting alarm among the American military, reports Reuters.
“If you don’t quit, we’re going to kidnap your kids and kill you,” read a note that the Taliban allegedly sent an Afghan pilot, according to Reuters.
The AAF member spoke to the news outlet on condition of anonymity due to fears for his safety. Reuters conceded that it could not independently verify his account.
“His children are aged 2, 3, 6, and 7. Three other pilots said such threats were common among Super Tucano pilots, whose skills are quickly becoming among the most sought after assets in the Afghan arsenal. Two said they wanted the Afghan government to do more to help protect their families,” notes Reuters.
“The fledgling Afghan Air Force (AAF) is a bright spot in a 16-year-old war against Taliban insurgents that American commanders say is at a stalemate, and any future U.S. plans to aid the Afghan military will almost certainly involve strengthening its air power,” it adds.
U.S. Air Force Major General James Hecker, the commander of the 9th Expeditionary Task Force – Afghanistan, told Reuters that the American military is aware of the Taliban threats against Afghan pilots.
“That is something we are very concerned about,” declared that top U.S. general, noting that he has discussed the matter with the Afghan government.
Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s ministry of defense, confirmed that his government debated the issue with the United States.
He told Reuters Afghanistan has implemented measures to protect the pilots, without elaborating further on the details out of alleged concern for security.
“Overall, there is a plan to protect them, especially those who are directly involved in operations against the terrorists,” declared Minister Waziri.
None of the Afghan pilots suggested they were seeking asylum from the United States, stressed Reuters.
“They appeared proud of their training and eager to fight the Taliban,” points out the news outlet, adding, “The aim of the expanding U.S. assistance is to build an Afghan air force able to support counter-insurgency forces fighting in remote and forbidding terrain with air strikes, supplies, and intelligence.”
Taliban jihadists and relatives threatened the first female fixed-wing pilot in Afghanistan’s air force, driving her to request asylum in the United States late last year.
Afghan security forces, including army and police units, have borne the brunt of the deadly Taliban attacks in recent years, suffering more casualties than any other anti-terrorism group involved in the war.
U.S. President Donald Trump inherited a mess in Afghanistan from his predecessors — deteriorating security conditions primarily perpetrated by Taliban jihadists.
The Trump administration is debating what to do about the nearly 16-year-old war that has cost Americans so much blood and treasure — 2,257 U.S. military fatalities, 20,257 injuries, and more than $700 billion in taxpayer funds.
On Friday, President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and his national security team are expected to discuss the developing Afghan war strategy during a meeting at Camp David on Friday.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently indicated that complete withdrawal, more troops, and a private contractor approach are all on the table for how to deal with the ongoing Afghanistan war.
Regardless of what the president decides, recruiting, training, and retaining Afghan pilots and aircraft maintenance crews are expected to remain a major component of the United States involvement in the war-ravaged country.