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Sat, Apr 01, 2023

Taliban Commences Sales of Abandoned U.S. Military Aircraft

Possession is 9/10 …

Special 04.01.23 Parody Edition: The unexpected outcome of U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan elicited controversy as Republican lawmakers criticized the Biden administration’s misjudgment of the strength and resolve of both the Taliban’s and U.S.-backed Afghan government’s forces. Many called upon Biden to delay or reverse the withdrawal, but Joe reiterated his commitment to a full withdrawal by 31 August 2021.

The retrocession of U.S. troops was completed on the night of 30 August, shortly before the midnight deadline, and America’s longest war—the combat mission of which had ended nearly seven years earlier—came to a definitive end. With the Taliban returning to power, U.S citizens wondered whether the war—its high costs, the lives lost, and the devastating and drawn-out destruction—had been worth it.

Comes now 2023, and the worrying realization that—to some enterprising jihadists, anyway—the war was a boon of unprecedented magnitude.

The US Department of Defense has set forth that—owing to the chaotic manner in which U.S. troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan and the bedlam that ensued their departure—the Taliban is currently in possession of at least 168 U.S.-supplied military aircraft. The de facto Taliban Air Force comprises: 23 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano ground attack aircraft; 33 MC-208 Guardians—multi-role aircraft deriving of Cessna’s 208 Caravan; 33 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 32 Russian-designed Mi-17 medium transport helicopters purchased with U.S. funds for the Afghan army from suppliers in eastern Europe; 43 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters; a Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight medium-lift transport helicopter; and three Lockheed C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft.

On 01 April 2023, Scottish war correspondent Ben O’Verjoe, who remains in Afghanistan under the protection of the U.S. Air Force Central’s (AFCENT) Task Force 99, submitted a report to AFCENT Air Warfare Center Commander Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Walsh. Subject report states in part: “At the northwest corner of Hamid Karzai International Airport (KBL), on the site of the former USAF depot, a makeshift, open-air, used-aircraft market has been cobbled into existence by Huzaifa Ali Ahmed and Imran Hadi Abdullah, former goatherds elevated by circumstance and temerity to the unlikely station of military aircraft brokers.

Across the vastness of the 188,100-square-meter ramp, aircraft abandoned by departing U.S. forces sit, wing-to-wing and rotor-to-rotor, festooned in stringers of mandalas and banners bearing Quranic excerpts. To the Western eye, the improvised embellishments bring the once fearsome machines low—after the fashion of onetime prizefighters trotted out to ornament an appliance store’s grand opening.

Droves of bedraggled goats, vestiges of Messrs. Ahmed’s and Abdullah’s former profession, wander among the aircraft, occasionally clambering atop an A-29’s wing—to the chagrin of the Eurasian collared-doves nesting therein. Goat mortality is high, on account of the taste the creatures have developed for the hydraulic fluid that trickles from the unmaintained aircraft.

Visitors to the lot are plentiful, often several-thousand a day; buyers, however, are exceedingly rare insomuch as expertise in piloting advanced combat aircraft is rare among Afghanistan’s urban poor. What’s more, even at the drastically reduced prices for which the aircraft are being offered—$10,000 for an MD 530F Cayuse Warrior, a light helicopter for which American taxpayers shell out $2.4-million per unit—the aircraft remain far beyond the economic purview of most Afghanis, the yearly median income of which is around $509.

Nevertheless, determined communities have pooled funds and, in two instances, managed to purchase forsaken U.S. military aircraft—albeit for purposes never imagined by the machines’ manufacturers.

In October 2021, barely one month after the U.S. withdrawal, civic leaders of Katah Kheyl, a municipality approximately 13-nautical-miles northeast of central Kabul, amassed $22,000 with which they acquired an Mi-17. The aircraft was trucked to Katah Kheyl’s outskirts, where it was summarily disassembled and its components plied to all manner of unorthodox ends.

The helicopter’s main-rotor blades were converted to fencing. Its tail-boom and anti-torque rotor were stood vertically in the town-square, where they served as a windmill by which water was pumped from the community well to a common cistern. The Mi-17’s fuselage, which remained largely intact despite the aircraft’s savaging, was converted into a new city-hall—an architecturally savvy move that coordinated neatly with Katah Kheyl’s new windmill/pumphouse.

In August 2022, at the height of the punishing Afghani summer, vineyard owners of Qara Bagh, a town 19-nautical-miles north of Kabul and the administrative heart of a district that accounts for 9% of Afghanistan’s yearly raisins production, pooled monies enough to purchase an MC-208 from Ahmed’s and Abdullah’s aircraft brokerage—as it were. A local pilot was retained to fly the Cessna 208 derivative aircraft to a fallow field about half-a-nautical-mile south of Qara Bagh proper. Regrettably, the English-illiterate pilot predicated his acceptance of the ferry mission on his narrow comprehension of the word Cessna. More regrettably still, the pilot’s sole aircraft experience consisted of a total of 51 hours logged in an ancient 172 Skyhawk he’d last flown in 2004.

Confronted with the 208’s turbine engine and EFIS suite, the pilot foolhardily feigned familiarity, hoisted himself into the aircraft’s cockpit, and frantically pored over its flight-manual—albeit to no avail insomuch as the entirety of the aircraft’s documentation and placarding were printed in English.

By some miracle of bad-fortune, the pilot managed to start the MC-208’s 867-shaft-horsepower PT6A-140 turboprop engine and got the plane airborne. Lack of familiarity with the aircraft’s systems precluded the pilot’s activating the avionics master switch, and the airplane lumbered well east of its intended course, striking an unlit windmill in the town of Katah Kheyl.

Catastrophically damaged, the MC-208 impacted the desert floor east of Katah Kheyl and was consumed in a post-crash fire. The pilot somehow survived the accident unscathed.

FMI: https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/afghanistan/


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