Afghan Air Force Pilots Escape In Caravan, Ask For Asylum In Canada


Twelve combat-hardened Afghan air force pilots and one of their crew chiefs are holed up in Tajikistan asking Canada to come and get them. The pilots, who flew attack helicopters and aircraft against the Taliban, grabbed a “Hellfire Caravan,” a Cessna 208 that carries Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, as the Taliban closed in on the airport in Kabul a couple of weeks ago and flew to the neighboring country. They have made contact with the Canadian government, pleading for the country to take them and their families in. “They will kill us,” one of the pilots told CBC News. “We are sure they will kill us because we are fighter pilots.”

Although some of the pilots trained in the U.S., they are asking Canada for asylum because of comments made by President Joe Biden in the early days of the collapse of the Afghan government that “the Afghan military gave up, sometimes without trying to fight.” The pilot who flew the Hellfire said the air force ran out of ammunition for its aircraft weeks before the Taliban takeover and their only option was to fly to the relative safety of neighboring Tajikistan. “I killed them,” one pilot told the CBC. “I rocketed them. I shot them. I am sure if I killed someone they would take their revenge and kill us.” Although the pilots are safe for now, they said they were worried that they might become diplomatic pawns if the Tajik government tries to curry favor with the Taliban.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. It’s unfortunate that there is so much misinformation out there, and people repeating it, right to POTUS and staff. In the weeks prior to the take over, it is my understanding that food and water also diminished for the Afghan military. Does anyone know if that has been verified? Thanks for covering this story, Russ. And they’re not out of the woods yet.

  2. Lemme see if I got this right … a number of US trained Afghan Air Force people — fearing for their lives — stole a “Hellfire Caravan” provided to their ‘Government’ by the US taxpayers, flew it to another Nation and thereafter sought asylum in Canada. People of the jury … I rest my case.

  3. It’s an interesting story, though a little short on details.
    And yeah, Larry S., what is your point? …. “Rest my case”? You haven’t made a case.

  4. Afghanistan is just one more example of people getting the government they deserve. You tolerate and/or promote and participate in graft, corruption, and barbaric behavior rather than revolt and reformation you get what you deserve. Mexico is another example.

  5. Where there any attack helios there for them to fly out?
    Same with all the aircraft left behind – why were THEY not flown out??
    Are we getting the straight scoop?

  6. Hmmm… I remember this story… like it was yesterday… 1975… U-Tapao AB Thailand…. 5 people climbed out of a single seat Vietnamese F-5, 9 climed out of an A-37… exact same reasons given. Airfields all over Thailand and Cambodia were littered with Vietnamese aircraft used to escape the NVA takeover of Saigon. I wasn’t at any of them very long with my C-141A but I sure saw a lot of scrap aluminum everywhere.