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4 May, 2019 08:49

Pentagon quietly stopped training Afghan pilots after 40% of cadets deserted while in US

Pentagon quietly stopped training Afghan pilots after 40% of cadets deserted while in US

The Pentagon had no choice but to shut down a US-based program to train Afghan Air Force pilots after it emerged that nearly half of the cadets seized the opportunity and went absent without leave.

More than 40 percent of the Afghan cadets sent to train on the AC-208 light reconnaissance aircraft deserted the training program, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported. The watchdog did not detail exactly how many trainees went missing, but said it resulted in only one graduating class.

Consequently, the entire program was disbanded, with the second and third classes sent back to Afghanistan – possibly to prevent further desertions. The Afghan Air Force (AAF) has five AC-208s in their inventory.

READ MORE: Pentagon finds Afghanistan’s ‘new’ Black Hawk helicopters inferior to Russian Mi-17s

The AC-208 is a single-engine turboprop utility aircraft built by Cessna. The airplane typically seats nine passengers with a single pilot, and its combat version is fitted to carry a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

The revelation indicates a severe blow to the efforts the US has made to grow a self-sufficient air force on Afghan soil. Since 2010, the US had spent approximately $8.4 billion to support and develop the AAF, according to SIGAR figures.

It also comes less than a month after local media found out that an estimated $7 billion worth of equipment was stolen from Camp Kearney base in Paktika province in the east of the country, after it was handed to the Afghan forces by the US in 2014.

Provincial Governor Mujib Rahman Samkanai claimed at the time that the looters were “former governors, commanders, mayors, directors, parliament members.” 

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Apart from that, combat operations in Afghanistan have been plagued by high numbers of civilian deaths. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) estimated that 536 people died in Afghan and Western airstrikes last year.

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