Taliban assassinations of Afghan pilots this month mark another worrisome development for the Afghan Air Force as it reels from a surge in fighting, a U.S. government watchdog said in a report released on Thursday.
At least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months, two senior Afghan government officials told media, part of what the Taliban says is a campaign to see U.S.-trained Afghan pilots targeted and eliminated.
As the United States prepares to formally end its 20-year military mission in Afghanistan on 31 August, Taliban insurgents are quickly seizing territory once controlled by the U.S.-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani, raising fears they could eventually try to take the capital Kabul.
The AAF’s fleet of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, for example, had a 39 percent readiness rate in June, about half the level of April and May. All Afghan airframes were flying at least 25 percent over their recommended scheduled-maintenance intervals, Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, SIGAR reported.
Along with Afghanistan’s Special Forces, the Afghan Air Force is a pillar of the nation’s strategy for preventing a Taliban takeover of cities. But special operations forces are also being misused, SIGAR reported.