Afghan service members fled to Uzbekistan in dozens of US-supplied planes, helicopters

Hundreds of Afghan service members have fled to Uzbekistan aboard dozens of U.S.-supplied planes and helicopters since the weekend, when the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan.

At least 46 aircrafts have entered Uzbekistan with a total of 585 Afghan service members on board, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.

Some of the airplanes reportedly landed in Tajikistan, which is also located on Afghanistan’s northern border.

An additional 158 Afghan soldiers entered Uzbekistan on foot on Sunday, Reuters reported, citing the Uzbek prosecutor general’s office.

The movement occurred as the Afghan government collapsed and top leaders fled the country with the Taliban entering the capital of Kabul and taking control of the presidential palace.

The Uzbek prosecutor general’s office revealed that one aircraft collided with an escorting Uzbek fighter jet, resulting in both jets crashing, Reuters reported. Both pilots reportedly ejected and survived the incident.

The news wire noted that the statement from the office contradicted earlier remarks from the country’s defense ministry that said the Afghan military plane was shot down by Uzbek air defense forces.

The Afghan service members fled to Uzbekistan after the Taliban overran Kabul on Sunday, sparking chaos in the city as thousands flooded the airport in a desperate attempt to escape the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who quietly left the country, later wrote in a social media post that he fled to avoid potential clashes with the Taliban and prevent future bloodshed.

Ghani fled to the United Arab Emirates, according to a statement from the country’s ministry of foreign affairs released on Wednesday.

A number of Afghan citizens are now trying to leave the country as the Taliban establishes control.

Scenes from the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday showed scores of Afghans trying to board U.S. military aircrafts evacuating the region, with some clinging to the outside of moving planes on the tarmac.

The Pentagon said it will work to have one flight leave Kabul per hour, a pace that could have between 5,000 to 9,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan per day.

The Taliban has promised peace in Afghanistan, though many are skeptical and concerned with how the insurgent group will rule, especially when it comes to women in the country.

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