The Ministry of Defense of the Taliban Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has once again asked Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to return the helicopters of the previous administration that were taken following the fall of the republic.

TOLOnews reports that Inayatullah Khwarazami, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said that Kabul will take the helicopters in the near future.

“The helicopters are the property of the Afghan people. They should be returned to the current government, to the Ministry of Defense.  Of course, they have their own considerations, but the fact is that this is related to the people of Afghanistan, which are in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, whenever they are, they will be taken and counted,” he was cited as saying by TOLOnews.

Meanwhile, some analysts said that until the Islamic Emirate is recognized by the international community, it will be impossible to obtain these helicopters.

"Regarding the helicopters that were taken out of the country, there are a number of issues.  First of all, I am not sure that the documentation of these helicopters is related to Afghanistan.  The second issue is the issue of the Taliban government, which is not recognized by any country," said Fahim Kohdamani, former diplomat of Afghanistan in Tajikistan, according to TOLOnews.

“Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are not allowed to hand over these helicopters to the current government,” Asadullah Nadim, a military expert, was quoted as saying. 

TOLOnews says the Islamic Emirate has previously acknowledged that after the fall of the republic, the military of the previous government transferred more than 40 Afghan helicopters to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  The Islamic Emirate has consistently urged that these countries return the helicopters to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, US military official noted during his visit to Dushanbe in June this year that the United States may let Tajikistan hold on to Afghan military aircraft, which were  donated by the United States to the former government of Afghanistan and sought shelter in Tajikistan following the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul last August.

U.S.-trained Afghan pilots flew dozens of military planes and helicopters to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in mid-August last year as they fled the Islamist Taliban who took over the country as foreign forces withdrew.  The Taliban have demanded that the two Central Asian countries return the aircraft.

Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), General Michael Kurilla, visited Dushanbe, June 15-16 to discuss bilateral security cooperation between the United States and Tajikistan.  During his visit, he met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and high-ranking military officials of Tajikistan to discuss joint efforts to strengthen border security, address regional threats, and provide support for the Tajik armed forces.

Asked about the fate of military aircraft, which were donated by the United States to the former government of Afghanistan and sought shelter in Tajikistan, General Kurilla said they are grateful to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan for continuing to secure the aircraft that the Afghan Air Force flew into the country last August.

"The United States is working with the Tajik government to determine the best way to effectively use and maintain the aircraft," Kurilla said.

He said the aircraft would definitely not be returned to Afghanistan "because they do not belong to the Taliban".

"Our hope is to be able to hand over some or all of the aircraft to the Tajik government. I do not have a timeline on when this will occur, but we are working hard to make this happen," General Kurilla added.

Recall, Afghan media reports noted last year that before the fall of the former government, Afghanistan had over 164 active military aircraft and now only 81 are in the country.  The rest were reportedly taken out of Afghanistan and brought to different countries.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reported on August 26, 2021 that over 45 Afghan Air Force aircraft were flown out of the country in mid-August, likely to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Taliban.  Satellite imagery of Termez International Airport in Uzbekistan captured on August 16 reportedly revealed several dozen Afghan military assets situated on the airport’s tarmac.  The platforms visible in the imagery reportedly included C-208 utility aircraft, A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, and Mi-17, Mi-25, and UH-60 helicopters.

CSIS noted that the aircraft and helicopters were no longer visible in imagery of the airport acquired on August 21, indicating that their stop in Termez, Uzbekistan, was temporary and they were relocated. Imagery acquired on September 1 of Bohktar International Airport in Tajikistan reportedly revealed that 16 of the utility/transport attack aircraft previously seen at Termez International Airport were transferred here.

It is to be noted that dispute over the helicopters flown out of Afghanistan between the Taliban and the governments of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan has begun a few days after the Taliban came to power in Kabul.