US-trained Afghan pilots preparing to fly to US from Tajikistan

Tajikistan airport (Juergen Lehle/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Around 150 U.S.-trained Afghan pilots are preparing to depart Tajikistan to be relocated to the United States after nearly three months of detention, pilots and U.S. Embassy officials said.

The 143 pilots and about 100 other Afghans, including journalists, are waiting at the airport in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, for a flight organized by the U.S. government that appears to have been delayed, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reported on November 9.

A U.S. Embassy representative told RFE/RL that the group will be taken to a third country for processing before being granted immigration rights in the United States.

The flight could arrive today or in the coming days, embassy officials said.

The Afghan Air Force pilots fled to Tajikistan in military planes when the Taliban seized power in Kabul in mid-August, only to be detained at a sanatorium on the outskirts of Dushanbe.

The English-speaking pilots trained by the U.S. Air Force have been waiting for their documents to be processed to eventually be relocated in the United States.

RFE/RL reported in October that the Taliban has pressured some of the pilots to return to Afghanistan by threatening to kill their relatives.