ISLAMABAD, -- A Taliban top official on Wednesday urged ex-military pilots from Afghanistan to stay in the country. He said they were protected under a national amnesty, and that they would not be arrested.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a government spokesperson, stated that the assurances were made after U.S. trained Afghan pilots fled Tajikistan Tuesday in a U.S.-brokered evacuation. This was three months after they fled Taliban-infected Afghanistan.
Along with their American counterparts, Afghan air force pilots played an important role in the 20-year war on Taliban insurgents. The conflict ended in August with the departure from foreign troops. The Taliban suffered heavy casualties as a result of the airstrikes, which repeatedly drove them from different positions in the country.
Many Afghan pilots fled to Central Asian countries after the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed, and the Taliban took control in mid-August.
It is not known how many military personnel and pilots remain in Afghanistan, the level of risk they are facing or whether Taliban assurances can be trusted. There have been reports that the Taliban has carried out revenge killings, but these were not large-scale, organized attacks.
John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary, stated that 140 Afghan pilots were among those flown from Tajikistan to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. He stated that the U.S Embassy would soon begin processing them in preparation for their eventual admission to the U.S.
Tajik media reported that 191 Afghans, which included 143 pilots were flown to Dubai.
He stated, "My message was, there is not security problem for them [Afghan pilots] in Afghanistan, there are no plans to arrest them, and national amnesty has been announced." He stated that pilots in military and civil aviation "can serve their country,"
He said, "It is unfortunate that a lot of pilots have gone or are going."
Separately, the Taliban intelligence service spokeswoman said that 600 Taliban members were arrested in connection to violent attacks on the Taliban over the past three month.
Khalil Hamraz, a spokesperson, stated that the key IS figures in detention are financial supporters and other financial supporters.
He said that at least 33 IS members were killed in gunbattles against Taliban security forces. He claimed that several vehicles rigged with explosives or suicide vests were taken before they could detonate.
The Taliban is an enemy of Islamic State. Both groups have a hardline Islam interpretation and have used the same violence tactics over the years, including suicide bombings. The Taliban are focused on capturing Afghanistan while IS is committed to global jihad.
IS militants have been carrying out a series bombing and shooting attacks in recent weeks to undermine the Taliban's claim that they can restore security in Afghanistan.