Afghan Military Aircraft Land in Uzbekistan, Move to Tajikistan (Updated)

This commentary was updated on September 2, 2021, to take into account new satellite imagery.

Over 45 Afghan Air Force aircraft were flown out of the country in mid-August, likely to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Taliban. Satellite imagery of Termez International Airport in Uzbekistan captured on August 16 reveals several dozen Afghan military assets situated on the airport’s tarmac. The platforms visible in the imagery include C-208 utility aircraft, A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, and Mi-17, Mi-25, and UH-60 helicopters. According to the Associated Press, these aircraft may have been forced to land at Termez by Uzbek authorities after crossing the border. Other reports suggest that some aircraft may have carried Afghan soldiers seeking asylum.

The aircraft and helicopters were no longer visible in imagery of the airport acquired on August 21, indicating that their stop in Termez, Uzbekistan, was temporary and they were relocated. Imagery acquired on September 1 of Bohktar (Qurghonteppa) International Airport in Tajikistan revealed that 16 of the utility/transport attack aircraft previously seen at Termez International Airport were transferred here. The fate of the remaining aircraft and all the helicopters originally seen at Termez is unclear.

Sources that suggest these former Afghan Air Force aircraft and helicopters will be used to form the air component of a future Taliban resistance force in the northeast corner of Afghanistan are overly enthusiastic given the ongoing dynamic situation unfolding on the ground.

Matthew P. Funaiole is a senior fellow for data analysis with the iDeas Lab and senior fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. is a senior fellow for imagery analysis (non-resident) with the CSIS iDeas Lab and Korea Chair.

Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2021 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

Matthew P. Funaiole
Vice President, iDeas Lab, Andreas C. Dracopoulos Chair in Innovation and Senior Fellow, China Power Project