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Taliban targeting pilots to ground Afghan air force in Civil War

Besides destroyed infrastructure and attacking civilians, Taliban is now targeting air force pilots (Pic: Courtesy cfr.org)

“The question is what is the UN Security Council doing? Sitting & watching the devastating consequences of this proxy war unfold and further threaten regional & global peace and security?” says Mahmoud Saikal, the former Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, as the situation in Afghanistan has been taking  a turn for the worse.

He is not alone, many Afghans are echoing the same sentiments about the silence of the United Nations. 

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are burning down shops, schools, administrative buildings,  blowing up civilians in buses, and destroying electricity infrastructure needed to power hospitals treating COVID19 patients. These are war crimes and terrorist actions against innocent civilians. Afghan experts say that there is enough evidence to “nail” Pakistan for its ‘supportive” roles in the ongoing violence in Afghanistan. Pakistani ministers are on record that they have been providing injured Talibani fighters the safe havens, hospital care, delivery of war materiel and explosives, the recruiting and training of fighters, and in many cases the inclusion of Pakistani military officers fighting along with the Taliban.  The Taliban connections with Al Qaeda have been well documented.

Talking to indianarrative.com, Afghan journalist Wali Frozan Yousefzai called the Talibani propaganda of capturing three fourth of the country. Most of these posts are in rural areas. 

“Pakistan and the Taliban are taking advantage of it. There are Pakistani fighters from madrassa and Pakistan commandos fighting alongside Taliban. In some areas in the east there are more Pakistanis among Taliban fighters.”

According to the Afghan journalist, the Taliban has captured many areas where the presence of the Afghan army is very “less” because at present the priority is to secure all bases and airfields after the departure of NATO troops.

“Most of these were located in the areas where it was difficult to support them logistically. These outposts consisted of 10 soldiers and were very vulnerable to attack,” Yousefzai told indianarrative.com adding, “the ANDSF is bringing it's forces to a larger base. ANDSF is securing large bases and airfields left behind by US troops which requires 1000's  of personnel to secure them.” He  further added, “we have to be patient and watch what we publish because this can weaken the morale and this is exactly what Talib/ISI wants.”

Yousefzai’s observations are corroborated by other journalists too. The Taliban’s major concern is of possible big air strikes by the Afghan air force which can be a game changer. And that's the reason that the Taliban has been targeting Afghan pilots because they do not have air power.

According to senior Afghan officials,  Afghan pilots are at the top of the Taliban’s hit list because US and NATO trained Afghan fighter pilots are the country’s most valuable asset.

A Taliban spokesperson confirmed to Reuters, that it had started a programme that will see Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people."

The agency says that “At least seven Afghan pilots, including Zamaray, have been assassinated off base in recent months, according to two senior Afghan government officials. This series of targeted killings, which haven't been previously reported.”

The Afghan government has never disclosed the number of fighters because of their safety reasons.

So far the Afghan defence forces  has not been using its air powers but it can strike Taliban forces massing for major attacks, shuttle commandos to missions and provide life-saving air cover for Afghan ground troops.

Meanwhile Pakistan has “promised” the US that it is still trying to pursue the Taliban to get back to the negotiation table though it does not have so much control over the group. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been mooting the idea that “power-sharing” of different Afghan factions is the best option to avert a civil war. Pakistan’s nightmarish concern is not the well being of Afghans but the comeback of TTP  which is not in Pakistan’s interest. “We do not want Talibanisation of our country.,” Qureshi told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of Pakistani National assembly on Friday.

Taking the jibe against the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Qureshi said Ghani is ready to sit with the Taliban but the Taliban does have objections against him.  Praising the Taliban, the minister says that their dress is simple but they are very intelligent and capable people, and have now become very intelligent. “They understand everything. The Taliban have changed since the Doha talks and Pakistan will have to prepare for a new situation,” he said, reported Pakistani media.

And as a daily ritual, Qureshi again blamed India by saying that India was sabotaging the Afghan reconciliation process, apparently investing money in the name of rebuilding Afghanistan, but had opened a front against Pakistan.