TALIBAN fighters parade atop humvee vehicles near the former site of the US embassy in Kabul, on Wednesday, as they celebrate the first anniversary of the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan.—AFP
TALIBAN fighters parade atop humvee vehicles near the former site of the US embassy in Kabul, on Wednesday, as they celebrate the first anniversary of the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan.—AFP

During the war in Afghanistan, the US handpicked a few Afghan military pilots and trained them to fly sophisticated machines — most of which were manufactured by the US itself — and target the Taliban.

Mohammad Edris Momand was a part of the group.

But when the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul was imminent, Mr Momand ditched the Afghan military and flew his helicopter to hand it over to the Taliban.

“Some people may not be happy with me, but I tell them the country is like a mother and no one should betray it,” Momand said in an interview to BBC News.

“My aim was to protect an asset that belongs to Afghanistan.”

He had joined the Afghan military in 2009 and went to the US for a four-year training at the American Military Academy.

Talking to BBC News, Mr Momand said he was ‘very happy and excited’ when he was selected for the training.

After his training, he initially flew Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters. However, in 2018, he was part of a group of pilots that was selected to fly US-manufactured Black Hawk.

Turning to the enemy

Recalling the events of 14 August, the day the Taliban took over Kabul, Mr Momand said that the situation was tense as the Taliban were nearing Kabul.

The capital’s airport was under the control of the US military and the Air Force commander had ordered all the pilots to fly out to Uzbekistan, he told BBC.

Angered at the directives, Mr Momand decided not to obey them.

“My commander was urging me to betray my country, why should I obey such an order?”

He said that after consulting his father, he flew the helicopter, but not to Uzbekistan, but to his village in Kunar province which was already under the Taliban’s control.

However, the endeavour was not that simple. He first had to ditch the crew —a four-member crew is standard for every Black Hawk — as he had no faith in them.

“Every Black Hawk has a four-member crew. I knew I couldn’t trust them with my plan. I was sure they wouldn’t agree. They would have endangered my life and even destroyed the helicopter.”

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2022

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