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U.S. looks to trade former Afghan aircraft for counterterrorism help in Central Asia

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Kabul: Sources in the US government announced that Washington is negotiating with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to hand over about 50 helicopters and airplanes of the Afghan Air Force, which were brought to these countries by Afghan pilots during fall of Kabul last year.

Last year, a number of pilots of the former government of Afghanistan transferred about 50 helicopters and planes to these countries to escape from the captivity of the Taliban and take refuge in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The Taliban have always emphasized that these planes and helicopters belong to Afghanistan and should be returned to this country, but the Uzbek and Tajik authorities say that they belong to the United States and will not be handed over to the Taliban.

According to “Politico” newspaper, due to the sensitivity of Afghanistan’s relations with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and Russia’s economic and military influence in Central Asia, nothing has been made public about the agreement between the United States and these countries, but a senior official of the Ministry of Defense and one of the congress aides say that American officials are quietly trying to use these aircrafts as a leverage to gain a foothold in an area where the US military is no longer present.

The U.S. is planning to evaluate the planes to see if they are airworthy, the U.S. officials added.

According to the officials, the aim is to provide a number of aircraft to the governments of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in exchange for an informal agreement to “deepen our security ties” in border security and counter-terrorism.

The report added that the agreement could include anything from increased intelligence sharing in the long term, to the deployment of troops or aircraft in those countries as a regional base to monitor terrorist activity in Afghanistan, something the Biden administration has tried and failed to achieve it.

But for now, the deal is likely to include access to information the Uzbeks and Tajiks have about terrorist networks in Afghanistan, Politico added.

The authorities of the United States, Uzbekistan, or Tajikistan have not officially said anything about this so far.

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