The TALIBAN terrorists have an air force which is greater in number than that of 10 NATO countries
A Taliban fighter poses in the cockpit of a C-130 Hercules transport plane that was left behind during the evacuation
Over the last few months, the jihadists have captured 10 major airfields from Bagram to Mazar-i-Sharif, and today took to the skies in a $6 million Black Hawk helicopter in their fight against the resistance in the Panjshir Valley.
Taliban chiefs are reported to have ordered their troops to hunt down pilots from the disbanded Afghan Air Force, who received expensive training from the US and its allies to fly high-tech warplanes and choppers.
Without those pilots, flying such sophisticated aircraft is near-impossible for an amateur – but several videos of airborne terrorists suggest they must have recruited some renegade wingmen.
Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul was seized on Tuesday by triumphant jihadists who were seen clambering into the cockpit of a $14 million Hercules transport jet – albeit clearly tilting over, suggesting its wheels were bust.
The Afghan Air Force was operating 167 aircraft, including 108 helicopters and 59 planes, according to an official U.S. government inspection on June 30.
Before Kabul fell, Uzbekistan confirmed that 46 Afghan aircraft, including 24 helicopters, had arrived in the country in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Taliban.
The commander of the US evacuation mission, Gen. Frank McKenzie, said American troops disabled 73 aircraft before finally leaving the country on Monday night.
Photos showed propellers and guns removed from planes and helicopters, while other aircraft lay with their fuselages directly on the tarmac, having had their wheels stripped away rendering them inoperable.
That leaves as many as 48 aircraft seized by the Taliban, although it is unclear what the breakdown is in terms of planes and helicopters, or what condition these aircraft might be in. Many were built in the 1980s and will need servicing and parts.
Nevertheless, if the Islamists have that many operational aircraft, it gives them more air power than 10 of the 30 Nato members, namely: Albania, Bosnia, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Slovenia.
The Taliban are believed to have got hold of as many as 48 aircraft which the US and its allies were either unable to disable or fly overseas. This means that the terrorists have an air force which is greater in number than that of 10 Nato countries
It is unclear how many former pilots the Taliban have been able to recruit, however, a video which emerged on social media this month showed a group of militants flying in a Russian-made Mi-17 chopper.
Another today, showed a Black Hawk heading to the contested Panjshir Valley north of Kabul where the country’s last stand is being fought by the Northern Alliance resistance fighters.
Aviation sources say it is unlikely that an amateur would be able to get such a helicopter off the ground, let alone be able to land it.
According to the June 30 tally by the US-based Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), the Afghan Air Force had 43 MD-530 helicopters, 33 Black Hawks, 32 Mi-17s, 33 C-208 propeller planes, 23 A-19 turboprop light attack planes and 3 Hercules C-130s.
Although many of the planes were flown away before the runways were seized, satellite imagery revealed that not all of them made it.
Around a month before the airbase was seized, there were 16 aircraft spotted – including nine Black Hawks, two MI-17s and five fixed-wing planes.
The aircraft were either flown to other runways in the country or shifted overseas.