By:The Kabul Times
KABUL: The United States, as a contributing nation to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, transferred four A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to the Afghan Air Force, during a ceremony in Kabul on Thursday.
“As we receive these planes, they are a message that NATO is committed to the Afghan Forces,” said acting Minister of Defense Asadullah Khalid at the ceremony held in Kabul Air Base. ”During these important times this is a good example of their continued cooperation, and shows this will continue until the defeat of terrorism in the country and the region.”
The A-29 is the Afghan Air Force’s fastest and most powerful aerial interdiction and close-air-attack aircraft. The U.S. has now provided 18 A-29s to the Afghan Air Force since 2016, and plans to transfer an additional six in February 2021.
“I congratulate you all on receiving these new airplanes,” Minister Khalid told a large assembly of pilots and security officials. ”I hope they will fly day and night if necessary, in order to defend our country.”
Since 2007, NATO has worked to rebuild and modernize the Afghan Air Force, first with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and then under the Resolute Support Mission, which began in 2015. U.S. and Coalition advisors provide training, advice and assistance to the Afghan Air Force from the ministerial level down to the wing, group, and squadron levels.
“NATO’s objective in Afghanistan has always been to deny safe havens for international terrorism,” said Lt. Gen. John Deedrick, commander of NATO’s Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. ”The best way to do this is to generate competent, trained and professional Afghan security forces which can maintain security independently. As we work toward peace, the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission continues to work closely with all branches of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.”
Since 2015, Resolute Support’s modernization efforts have helped to transform the Afghan Air Force into some of Afghanistan’s most capable security forces. As a result of NATO-led train, advise, assist efforts, the Afghan Air Force now independently plans and executes logistics, resupply, humanitarian relief, casualty evacuation, and combat support missions.
“The education, training and experience which our Afghan Air Force, our Afghan Army and our Special Forces have gained in the past few years is unique in the region,” said Minister Khalid. “The sense of dedication and morale, which is more important than anything, is strong in the soldiers and young people of this country, and we’re always witness to that.” The defense minister noted advances in the security forces are only one part of the gains the country has made over the last 19 years through cooperation with the international community.
“In the past two decades, we have seen the reconstruction of the country, the education of the youth, the independence of Afghanistan, and other achievements such as the free media that today we are witnessing here with several cameras present,” Minister Khalid said.
He included the increasing role of women in those accomplishments. ”In the past two decades, Afghan women have flown in the sky, become pilots, doctors, teachers, ministers and deputy ministers, and they will never go back to those days of the past.”