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Tajiks blame U.S. bureaucracy for delay evacuating Afghan pilots - Metro US

Tajiks blame U.S. bureaucracy for delay evacuating Afghan pilots

U.S.-trained Afghan pilots and other personnel who escaped to Tajikistan at the end of the war with the Taliban board a U.S.-brokered flight

DUSHANBE (Reuters) – Tajik officials blamed U.S. bureaucracy on Wednesday for a near three-month delay in evacuating U.S.-trained Afghan pilots, who had flown their aircraft to Tajikistan to escape the Taliban takeover of their country in August.

The U.S.-trained Afghan personnel, including a pilot who was pregnant, flew out of Tajikistan on Tuesday, after having been held under conditions that some of them compared to detention by Tajik authorities.

The months-long delay had attracted U.S. congressional scrutiny, with lawmakers and military veterans frustrated by what some saw as a sluggish U.S. relocation effort. By comparison, it had taken only a few weeks to relocate a similar group of Afghan pilots who had fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan.

A senior Tajik government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to comment publicly, said the “U.S. bureaucratic machine” was largely to blame for the delays.

The pilots’ passports had been taken from them so that they could be handed over to embassy staff who then needed time to confirm their identities, the Tajik official said. He added that Tajikistan had provided the Afghans with all necessary assistance during their stay.

(Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov in Dushanbe; Editing by Olzhas Auyezov and Peter Graff)

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