Multiple videos out of Afghanistan circulated widely on Saturday show an unusual and true first: the Taliban have "have operationalized at least two helicopters captured in Herat," according to a regional correspondent on the ground. An analyst at the D.C.-based Middle East Institute (MEI) writes "After capturing several helicopters in Kandahar, a Taliban trained pilot reportedly flew an Mi-17 chopper earlier today, right around the city." It's confirmed: the bearded Islamists rapidly overrunning cities while US forces are in retreat now literally have airpower, apparently.
Taliban have operationalized at least two helicopters captured in Herat.— Asfandyar Bhittani (@BhittaniKhannnn) August 14, 2021
Taliban airforce up and running. Don't know for how long with American aircrafts flying around. #afghanistan pic.twitter.com/HXIcYk22nk
Over much of the past two weeks the Taliban have been capturing bases in an around provincial capitals and major cities, taking the abandoned and available military hardware there - some of it even previously supplied and left there by the US. Some choppers appear Russian-made.
Such scenes like the below circulating on social media have become the norm...
Almost unbelievable videos like the below are circulating:
Reports that Taliban is flying a helicopter in Herat that was captured from an Afghan military base— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) August 14, 2021
TAAF is in the air
Likely these pilots were previously part of the Afghan military, perhaps even trained in Pakistan or by the US at some point, before going over to join the advancing Taliban.
There appears actual coordination between Taliban ground forces and their newly captured helicopters in the air, as the below video shows.
So now the imminent fight for Kabul could actually witness Taliban helicopters in action, among the other ongoing absurdities amid the US retreat and impending collapse of the country.
Meanwhile, the ultra-fast advance toward Kabul continues. At this point, the fall of the capital is just a matter of time.
New: US officials now appealing to the Taliban to wait for the completion of the U.S. evacuation saying that doing so would increase "the likelihood that both the international community and Afghans will accept the Taliban’s entry into the capital." https://t.co/Di2An31uf8— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) August 14, 2021