The Taliban want to regain possession of the fleet of Brazilian A-29 Super Tucano fighters which escaped the final takeover last weekend by the fundamentalist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Not just him: the United States is taking steps with Uzbekistan so that the plane, bought in Embraer by the US Air Force and then given to the Afghans, is repatriated.
The Taliban’s demand is explicit, made in an interview with Reuters by summit member Waheedullah Hashimi on Wednesday (18), who said he expected all planes and helicopters that landed in neighboring countries to return. the approach to Kabul.
The group already controls the rest of the Afghan Air Force, created by the United States following the 2001 invasion, but it has no pilots.
The US administration, on the other hand, is under the shadow of diplomacy, according to Folha heard by members of the US government. In addition to the political stake, the United States spent nearly 560 million dollars (without corrections) on two contracts for 26 Embraer planes, including 23 in Afghanistan when the Taliban took power on Sunday (15).
The fate of the Super Tucanos is one of the sagas parallel to the overwhelming rise of the Taliban, who regained control of the country after just two weeks of offensive against urban centers – in the two decades of Western military occupation, the group still has controlled areas of the country.
Purchased in 2011 by the Americans to lead the new Afghan Air Force, the planes were made in the United States by Embraer and delivered via a local partner of the Brazilian manufacturer.
The last batch, with three planes, saw its delivery approved by the United States in July. The Afghan operation began in 2016.
Specialized and armed device for low-cost counterinsurgency activities, as it is a single-engine turboprop and not a twin-jet like the F-15 widely used by the Americans in the country, the Super Tucano symbolized the American attempt at the military emancipation of the Afghans.
While there were only 14 fighters in the country in 2019, they were responsible for a third of the bombs dropped on Taliban targets. But that was fading, given the lack of replacement ammunition for Kabul and a human problem.
The Taliban, which never operated planes and lacked anti-aircraft missiles capable of downing Super Tucanos, killed pilots and their families. At least 7 of the 30 Airmen trained in the United States have been affected.
Now Hashimi says it’s to forget the past. “We contacted several pilots and asked them to join us, their brothers, their government,” he said.
This seems somewhat optimistic, given that at least 14 pilots and an uncertain number of co-pilots, the Super Tucano having two seats, could have flown to Uzbekistan. One of the planes crashed in flight, or was shot down by anti-aircraft fire or in a collision with an escort fighter, depending on the version.
Moreover, it is not enough to have pilots. An airplane like the Super Tucano relies on extensive inspections to function, and if you just turn off the gun control software, it won’t fire a shot – if there’s someone there who knows how to load it and if weapons are available.
It is not known exactly how many were left behind and whether the Afghans disabled them. A single photo emerged of Taliban fighters surrounding one of the models, alongside an armed version of the former Cessna Caravan, at Mazar-i-Sharif Air Base.
The Americans want their planes back, otherwise given to a government that no longer exists. Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic seeking a prominent position in Central Asia, with good relations with the United States and China, as well as of course with Russia.
The way seems open to a goodwill gesture with the Americans, but if Tashkent recognizes the Taliban as a government, history is changing.
Other interests are at stake: the construction of a 200 km line connecting the Uzbek Surkhan to the Afghan Puli-Khumri is underway, a 110 million dollar deal that will increase energy exports by 70% from Tashkent to its neighbor.
So far, the Uzbeks have maintained logistical support to U.S. allies and have conducted Russian-led military exercises in Tajikistan, aimed at deterring conflict spillovers from Afghanistan.
In addition to the Super Tucano, a total of 22 planes and 24 helicopters flew from the Taliban. At least 91 of these rotary wing aircraft remain, which, without maintenance, will suffer the fate of Soviet planes abandoned in the 1989 withdrawal: carcasses to play with children.
While these more sophisticated weapons require special attention, the Taliban, on the other hand, has unprecedented access to field-usable weapons they never had, such as 775 pieces of artillery, hundreds of vehicles and more. armored vehicles, modern rifles and pistols, night sighting equipment.
Much of this was in the hands of the Afghan military, and much of it in warehouses that the Americans had not had time to empty as the Taliban offensive expanded. Arms markets in Pakistani tribal areas will soon be inundated with old AK-47 rifles used by the Taliban.