US-trained Afghan pilots preparing to leave Tajikistan

US-trained Afghan pilots preparing to leave Tajikistan
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The Biden administration is looking to transport more than 150 U.S.-trained Afghan pilots and other evacuees who fled to nearby Tajikistan after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.

The U.S. embassy in Tajikistan “is working to expedite” the departure of a group of approximately 191 evacuees, including pilots, Pentagon press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyOvernight Defense & National Security — US says Russia prepping 'false flag' operation ​​Early warning systems warned North Korea missile could hit US: report US intelligence says Russia has prepared a false-flag operation to invade Ukraine MORE told reporters.

“We expect that they will be able to depart Tajikistan soon but we are not in control of the timeline,” Kirby added, referring further questions to the State Department.

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Reuters first reported on the group’s impending departure on a flight arranged by the U.S. government, citing two Afghan pilots. 

The Afghans waited for a day at the airport in Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, for a flight that seemed to be delayed, according to Reuters.

Hundreds of Afghan pilots fled their country in the days after the Taliban took control and U.S. forces pulled out nearly three months ago. The Islamic extremist group often targets the U.S.-trained, English-speaking personnel, who fear they will be killed if they return to Afghanistan.

Some who fled to Uzbekistan have since been moved to the United Arab Emirates under a U.S.-brokered deal in September.

But other pilots who flew to Tajikistan have been detained by Tajik authorities — with most being held at a sanatorium — and are still awaiting a U.S. relocation effort.

The holdup is due to difficulties in securing Tajik authorization to access the pilots for an evacuation, a U.S. official told Reuters.