The Taliban has issued a warning to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to return aircraft flown out of Afghanistan as the militant group took over the country.
The comment was made by Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob, Taliban’s acting Defense Minister, in a ceremony on January 11, 2021.
“Our aircraft that are in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan should be returned. We will not allow these aircraft to remain abroad or to be used by those countries,” Yaqoob said, according to Business Standard.
He added that Taliban will take “retaliatory steps” to return the aircraft if neighboring countries fail to meet their demands.
A sizeable part of the Afghan Air Force, including Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, were flown to neighboring countries by Afghan Air Force pilots fleeing Afghanistan.
According to Yaqoob, around 46 aircraft are still in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
He also extended the call to the pilots: “They wouldn’t be honored in foreign countries. We will honor them. They are the treasure of our country.”
Since the defections began, many pilots have been deported from the countries they fled to, while the aircraft have remained there.