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US Reportedly Bartering Aircraft for Uzbek, Tajik Counterterrorism Support in Afghanistan

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The United States is looking to barter almost 50 military aircraft in exchange for support from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on counterterrorism operations in neighboring Afghanistan, Politico reported on Monday.

The US is negotiating with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to trade nearly 50 military aircraft evacuated from Afghanistan last year as part of the US withdrawal for counterterrorism support, the report said, citing two people familiar with the discussions.

The Taliban (sanctioned by the UN) contend the aircraft belong to them as successors to the previous Afghan regime, according to the report. However, Uzbek authorities insist the light attack planes and helicopters are US property and will not be returned to Afghanistan, the report said.

The US is planning to assess whether the aircraft are in flyable condition, a senior Defense Department official reportedly said. The aircraft would be given to the Uzbek and Tajik governments in exchange for bolstered border security and counterterrorism efforts involving Afghanistan, the official said.

The increased cooperation on counterterrorism could include informal access to knowledge of people connected to networks within Afghanistan, the official added.

Tajikistan is currently the most cooperative Central Asian state on counterterrorism, collaborating with the US on border security and training, according to a congressional aide cited in the report.

However, it is unlikely that either Uzbekistan or Tajikistan allow the US to establish more permanent bases in their countries to conduct over-the-horizon operations in Afghanistan given their historic ties to Russia, the report also said.

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