Afghan lawmakers voice alarm on air force as US withdrawal nears
Afghan lawmakers on Friday voiced alarm that their air force was depleted in the face of a Taliban offensive as they asked the United States to finalize assistance ahead of a troop withdrawal.
In virtual talks this week with the US Congress, an Afghan delegation said it appealed for quick action on aircraft maintenance and munitions supplies as President Joe Biden prepares to end America's longest-ever war by the end of next month.
"The security situation is really getting terrible," said senior Afghan MP Haji Ajmal Rahmani, referring to a Taliban offensive.
Rahmani said that one-third of the 150-strong fleet was already grounded due to maintenance issues.
He said the Afghans had also run out of laser-guided munitions as the United States and NATO allies had handled 80 to 90 percent of the armaments and did not leave a supply during hasty pullouts of air assets.
Laser-guided munitions are critical to pinpointing targets and minimizing civilian casualties, he said.
"The feedback was that it will take some more time because they have to make the orders and it will take time to produce and ship to Afghanistan," he told a roundtable of the State Department Correspondents' Association.
"They are talking of around one year, more or less, until it will reach Afghanistan. This is something very much needed at this critical time."
Mir Haider Afzaly, chairman of the parliamentary defence committee, said that planes were grounded due to a lack of spare ports, Covid concerns that kept away US technicians and the aging of the fleet.
He said the United States has not yet delivered promised Black Hawk helicopters that could help upgrade the air force.
The United States has invested more than $8 billion to develop Afghanistan's air force, which was virtually non-existent when the 2001 invasion toppled the Taliban after the September 11 attacks.
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that the United States in recent days has again used airpower to support Afghan forces against the Taliban, amid fears that the insurgents will make rapid gains or even take over after US troops leave at the end of next month.
Biden argues that the United States can accomplish nothing further militarily after two decades and long ago achieved its goal of eliminating the threat in Afghanistan of Al-Qaeda extremists.