Afghans want U.S. to speed up training of Afghan air force

Afghans want U.S. to speed up training of Afghan air force

The Afghan government has asked the U.S. to accelerate the training and equipping of Afghan pilots to fly aeromedical evacuation and close air support missions, a top Afghan official said Thursday.

The 438th Air Expeditionary Wing headquartered in Kabul, Afghanistan, trains Afghan airmen to fly and maintain helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft inside Afghanistan. Meanwhile, 30 Afghan pilots and 90 maintainers are at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, where they are training on the A-29 Super Tucano close air support aircraft. Defense contractors also train Afghan airmen in the United Arab Emirates.

“What we are asking for is to speed up these programs, which are underway, in terms of providing the necessary resources as well as equipment which Afghanistan needs,” Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said during a breakfast with reporters.

The Afghan air force is not expected to be self-sufficient until 2017. Most of its aircraft are Russian-made helicopters. On Thursday, Abdullah could not say if the Afghan air force will be fully independent on schedule.

“That will depend on how we move in these areas of cooperation,” he said. “That will also depend on the scale of fighting. That will depend on a lot of conditions and circumstances. So it’s difficult to judge at this stage.”

The U.S. government took the request to speed the training seriously, said Abdullah, who noted that high-level consultations between U.S. and Afghan defense officials have been revived after a three-year hiatus.

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