The Taliban are killing off Afghan pilots

Afghan door gunner.

“In response to questions from Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group had killed Zamaray, and that it had started a program that will see Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people.”

A U.N. report documented 229 civilian deaths caused by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2021, and 41 civilian deaths caused by the Afghan Air Force over the same period.

Afghanistan’s government has not publicly disclosed the number of pilots assassinated in targeted killings. The nation’s Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The Pentagon said it was aware of the deaths of several Afghan pilots in killings claimed by the Taliban, but declined comment on U.S. intelligence and investigations.

Comment: How long do you think these guys are going to stay in the fight with this going on? pl

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19 Responses to The Taliban are killing off Afghan pilots

  1. Barbara Ann says:

    Do the Taliban have a their own “Mr. Ben” in the AAF identifying pilots for them? If so, what else have they penetrated and what else are they getting? The fact that the Taliban can both identify and get at mid-ranking military personnel in Kabul with apparent ease is a very bad sign. Remaining pilots must know they will be targeted in the aftermath of a Taliban victory anyhow – it may be what keeps them in the fight.

    • Pat Lang says:

      Barbara Ann
      “Mr. Ben.” Ah, yes. I am sure they do. They were waiting for this pilot to come to the real estate office.

  2. A. Pols says:

    We leave, the govt. is gone in all but name, very soon. Pilots and others perceived as quislings will have to run for their lives. Nearly 20 years and what have we accomplished? I’d be surprised if the rump govt. in Kabul lasts 6 months.

  3. Deap says:

    We do need more trained commercial pilots in the US – if certified good guys, let them in.

  4. Barbara Ann says:

    Re the possibility of Turkish troops remaining to guard Kabul airport: TRT World, which to my knowledge is an Erdogan-friendly outlet/mouthpiece, ran an interview yesterday with the Taliban spokesman; Suhail Shaheen. Interestingly this topic was raised by the interviewer. The Talib guy made it pretty clear that in such an eventuality the troops would be considered occupying forces. If Erdogan really perceived any danger of his troops coming to blows with the Taliban would such an interview question explicitly raising this possibility have been permitted?

    I would put very little faith in Turkish forces conducting a defense of the airport against the Taliban. The whole business smells like an Erdogan take-the-money-and-run scam to me.

    • James says:

      I wonder if US contractors will actually defend the airport and the Turks will take credit for it. Both the Turks and the US get what they want – the US can claim that muslims control the airport and Turkey gets to look tough.

  5. Polish Janitor says:

    I think to put it midly, the Talibs have had it against the Afghan air force personnel who participated/conducted close air support against them for two decades. Now it seems that it is their turn to settle a personal score against those who bombed them over the years.

  6. jerseycityjoan says:

    Their Air Force is essential but its continued operation is at risk. They don’t have anybody to fix and maintain many of their helicopters and planes, which is their one advantage over the Taliban.

    I had read about this recently and found this article written today that gives an good overview of the situation and shows the inexcusable ineptness of our handling of it. Numerous spokespeople make it clear that nobody has made any decisions yet to solve this well known problem. The article does not state if the contractors left already. I don’t see how we can avoid paying for their aircraft repair contractors; the Afghans sure can’t afford to. With a problem with one solution, why avoid making the decision?

    “If we don’t help them maintain those aircraft, then the Afghan security forces will be deprived of that advantage, and that could have a decisive impact on the battlefield and ultimately on the state of the Afghan government,” Bowman told NBC.”

    The article quotes Jack McCain, son of John McCain, praising the Afghan pilots’ bravery.

    • Pat Lang says:

      Kirby says that we will continue to maintain their aircraft but that means a further security liability if the Taliban take the city and the airport. I suppose we could hire some Filipinos or Taiwanese, pay them a lot and ignore their plight if that becomes necessary. We have done that before.

  7. Christian J. Chuba says:

    A terror tactic. Pilots are a valuable asset. If you send a message that they are war criminals, they will want to flee and they have the means to do so. On the flip side, they are giving the average soldier and civil administrator types more or less a pardon if they surrender quickly.

    It’s a good strategy. I hope they avoid summary executions but we are out of the match now. We should (or already should have) withdrawn the locals who really were collaborators. One man’s collaborator is another man’s ally.

  8. different clue says:

    Any President who finally decided to evacuate all our forces and other people from Afghanistan knew he or she would be accused of being the President who ” lost Afghanistan”. If Biden was/is still mentally functioning enough to realize that us leaving Afghanistan means a Taliban reconquest of Afghanistan, and he decided to be the President to accept the blame for “losing Afghanistan” ; does that mean that he may be considered just-that-much patriotic in this case for this decision? To accept the shame and the blame by loud finger-pointers who will all be silently grateful?

    • Fred says:

      Biden the Great! Biden the Peacemaker! Good thing all the “career professionals” kept Trump and Obama from leaving.

  9. Barbara Ann says:

    The Taliban sees China as a “friend” to Afghanistan and is hoping to talk to Beijing about investing in reconstruction work “as soon as possible”, the group’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Wednesday.


    Suhail also said the Taliban would no longer allow China’s Uyghur separatist fighters, some of whom had previously sought refuge in Afghanistan, to enter the country.

    So a China-backed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is on the cards. Well, well.

    • Polish Janitor says:

      It is too soon to tell, and most importantly let’s not jump to the conclusion that China is really dumb enough to welcome its ‘natural’ foe in the transnational Islamic terrorism with open arms and to cultivate it against the U.S. as a tool in its foreign policy toolbox.

      First and foremost, the Afghani talks in Doha need to be concluded, the future of the nature of the next political system and the new constitution which will defiantly be dominated by Sharia law are needed to be taken into consideration before anything else. just recently, once the Taliban proclaimed that it now controls over 80 pc of the country all the alarm bells went crazy in Tehran, Moscow, Dushenbe, Beijing and Delhi regarding the major threat that the establishment of a Sunni Islamic State WILL inevitably pose against them. The leaders of these countries have all warned the Talibs of taking things easy and to not revert to its natural state, i.e. spreading its destabilization campaign in the crucial central Asia which is soon going to host the massive Belt and Road Initiative. One thing is for sure, Taliban is based on a powerful transmissible ideology and thus a state based on an Islamic ideology is not bound by national interest and ‘traditional’ nation-state bread and butter matters, but by its beliefs and interpretations of good and evil and the remaking/refinement of mankind whenever and wherever.

      In fact the decision was very clever by the U.S. policy makers, as a joint effort of Trump-Biden admins to suddenly and abruptly pull out of Afghanistan like than and let the Taliban to grow rapidly. Because this not only creates a breathing space to the U.S. to re-visit its strategy in Asia (e.g. to allocate resources to the main issue of rising China), but also because it will create this huge security blackhole with a massive ‘event horizon’ encompassing major parts of the central Asia that will generate enormous security and economic pressure against China’s most vulnerable western flank as well as Russia’s own traditional sphere of influence, while at the same time putting pressure against India (think the issue of Jamu and Kashmir) to do Biden’s admin’s bidding in its two areas of concern: 1. India’s recent S-400 purchase, 2. Human Rights and Hindu nationalism (insert Kamala’s new role here).

      I would like to remind readers that China and Russia have a consistent history of considering political Sunni Islamism as a major threat to their own stability and economic development plans. Both condemned and opposed Arab Spring and Muslim Brotherhood destabilization agenda of Hilary and her ‘toadies’ back in 2011; Russia has its own Chechnya Sunni Islamism problem for decades now; both countries have excellent relationships with traditional Arab dictatorships and monarchies, and both have never ‘inserted’ them to the Palestinian issue for the fear of losing their transactional and working relationship with the Izzies and the Persian Gulf states. At least not beyond statements and shows of ‘solidarity’ with the oppressed Palestinians.

      • Barbara Ann says:

        Polish Janitor

        Your argument is well made and yes it is too soon to tell, China will certainly be very wary. Doha – maybe. A Taliban Emir sharing power with some vestige of the Kabul government seems extremely unlikely, even if things aren’t settled on the battlefield first.

        Your mention of Chechnya is relevant. Russia solved that particular problem in the end by finding themselves a warlord happy to enrich himself in return for running the place and reigning in the jihadis. Putin’s advice on that score may be invaluable. I could see China working with the Taliban on a similar basis if the Taliban follow word with deed and deliver on their promise to deal with the TIP/ETIM. The fact that the Taliban’s official position is now explicitly contrary to the aims of the Uighur jihadis is noteworthy. Perhaps this will precipitate internal conflict between factions of the Taliban.

        • Polish Janitor says:

          I can see your argument and your explanation of the Chechnya issue is spot on as in Putin selecting a local strongman (Ramzan Kadyrov) from Chechnya’s own and give him power to rule over them and keep them in check. I don’t think Putin wanted to give power and legitimize any form of Islamism there, even a pro-Putin one, because ideology always prevails over everything else from a political Islamism POV.

          In the mid 90s and early 2000s the Caucasus was terribly unstable due to post 9-11 fueled Islamism, ethnic separatism and post-soviet state collapse left and right. There were even talks of a new Bush-Putin partnership based on counter-terrorism and anti-Islamism. In fact there was a common enemy shared by both Putin and Bush in anti-Islamism and both had shared experience of major terror attacks on their soils: In Moscow (Sept. 1999 apartment bombing) and the 9/11 in the U.S.

          However IMO a major accelerant in the rise of Kadyrov came after the ‘pro-democratization’ faction within the Bush admin to screw around with Georgia and to push for the expansion of NATO there. Mikhail Saakashvili the pro-NATO pro-West Georgian president was the accelerant that prompted Putin to reluctantly pursue the policy that you correctly mentioned.

          This brings us to two major questions reagrding the Taliban-China issue: 1. Is China open to a similar approach Russia pursued in installing Kadyrov to keep the Islamists in check? The answer is extremely unlikely IMO. I don’t see a scenario where China will pick a local Uiqhur strongman to take care of the issue there, in fact China is already moving its Chinese Han population en masse there, so this nullifies the “Kadyrovization” approach Additionally, Communism and Islamism cannot live side by side in harmony for obvious reasons. 2. Is is conceivable to assume that Taliban would smarten up, abandon Islamic jihadism, leave its fellow Sunni brothers to rot in Chinese detention/re-education camps and became a normal nation-state? I highly doubt it. At the end of the day, Taliban is a transnational politico-religious movement, and movements do not need Weberian-style state, established borders, and institutions to survive and thrive. They are fine on their own.

          • Barbara Ann says:

            I didn’t mean to imply that China would choose a Chechnya solution for Xinjiang, no, “reeducation” and Hanization are the clear policies there.

            For whatever reason the Taliban spox is bending over backwards to give reassuring noises re their lack of transnationalist aspirations. It could of course simply be a PR move until they consolidate power. But I have to wonder if 20 years in the wilderness might have bred a pragmatism in this generation that could trump ideology at some level.

            The Taliban have a stark choice; align themselves with Al Qa’eda affiliated groups and have their leaders on every powerful neighbor’s drone strike list indefinitely, or content themselves with an Emirate within national boundaries. The latter must be very tempting, all the more so with the prospect of BRI. I guess much will depend on whether China and Russia’s essential demands can be met withing the framework of Pashtunwali.

  10. jerseycityjoan says:

    I had trouble posting an update on this earlier today and it looks like it didn’t make it to you. I will redo it. Sorry to be sending a duplicate if you did get it:

    I conveniently came across this great Politico article at Yahoo by one of their defense reporters that answers our question.

    Believe it or not, the plan is to have the Afghan repair personnel do the work. They will be assisted by contractors over Zoom and the phone. Their overused 162 planes and helicopters requiring heavy repairs will be sent out of the country. We are going to give them 37 more Black Hawks.

    The reporter speculates we might be have air strikes again in the future. Very interesting:

    “I think you can expect that we plan to use a range of [intelligence and surveillance] capabilities at our disposal,” Kirby said Thursday. “We also intend to leverage the strong relationship we have with the Afghan forces who will still be on the ground and who will still have information they can provide us,” suggesting that the U.S. might make use of airstrikes to help out Afghan troops on the ground.”

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