For the first time since the former government fell, the air force under the Islamic Emirate conducted a military maneuver in the northern province of Balkh on Monday, TOLONews reported yesterday.

In the maneuvers in Balkh, the Islamic Emirate’s pilots reportedly used MI-17 and MD choppers that the US had provided to the air force of the previous government.

A number of the former government’s air force members, especially technical personnel, are now working for the air force under the Islamic Emirate in the northern province of Balkh, TOLONews said.

“All the air force personnel are ready to fly in every condition and weather. They have kept the choppers active with limited equipment, and they are working closely with us,” Sayed Mohammad Ahmadzai, an air force commander, was quoted as saying.

“Our engineers resolve technical problems and are working here to serve the country,” said Mohammad Ikram Stanikzai, an air force officer, according to TOLOnews.

Meanwhile, Attaullah Omari, commander of the Al-Fath military corps in Balkh, was quoted as saying that the air force has good capabilities and will be used to counter insurgents.

“The Balkh air force is ready to serve the people. If we face any resistance from any part of Afghanistan, they are ready to transfer the mujahideen to those parts,” he said.

Recently the acting Defense Minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob said that the Islamic Emirate is working to form an air force that does not need the support of any country.  The commander called on pilots who served under the previous regime to return and join the air force.

Meanwhile, Amanuddin Mansoor, commander of the air force, reportedly said the pilots who were trained and serving under the former government and who fled the country should return and they will be recruited back into the air force.

“In the near future we will collect information from all the airports to see how many active and damaged choppers we have, and also how many pilots we have who are willing to work and how many are not. We request that those who have left the country return and serve their people,” Mansoor said.

Many pilots who were trained and served under the former government have left the country.