General Abdul Rashid Dostum, leader of the Junbish-e Milli (National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan) political party, has called on Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to hand over the former government army’s helicopters to National Resistance Front (NRF) fighters.

Khaama Press News Agency said on February 12 that Dostum has said that these helicopters should be used by the NRF personnel in different provinces of Afghanistan.

General Dostum has reportedly stated this at a ceremony in London commemorating the martyrdom of Khair Mohammad Khairkhah, one of the key NRF commanders who was killed in the fight against the Taliban in Andarab valley in northern Baghlan province.

According to Dostum, at least 40 helicopters of the former government’s army were transferred to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Dostum further added that opposition groups should decisively stand against the Taliban, and carefully think about the future structure of Afghanistan, otherwise, there will be no escape from the continued tortures and killings of the ruling regime.

His remarks came days after the Brookings Institution based in the US released an investigative report, claiming that NRF’s resistance would not pose any immediate threats to the Taliban regime.  The reports also added that they do not see any alternative group or power to replace the ruling regime in Afghanistan.

Khaama Press says “that prior to this, the United States Defense Department had announced that 46 flights had landed in Uzbekistan and 18 others in Tajikistan until August 21, 2021.”

In April, Uzbek authorities reportedly announced that helicopters and aircraft of Afghanistan’s former government will not be handed to the Taliban.  Ismatullah Irgashev, Uzbekistan’s special envoy for Afghanistan had said that the military equipment belongs to the U.S. and will be kept in Uzbekistan in collaboration with Washington.

Recall, Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), General Michael Kurilla, who visited Dushanbe on June 15-16 last year,  said, “The United States is working with the Tajik government to determine the best way to effectively use and maintain the aircraft.”

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.

Afghan media reports noted in 2021 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, 2021 indicating that their stop in Termez, Uzbekistan, was temporary and they were relocated.  Imagery acquired on September 1, 2021 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.