Hand Over the Best

Afghan President Hamid Karzai would like the United States to include modern fighter aircraft in the package of platforms that it provides to help rebuild the fledgling Afghan Air Force. Of the “120 planes and helicopters of different kinds” that the US has pledged to supply, Karzai says he hopes it will “hand over the best ones, including [the] F-16 and F-18,” the Chinese new service Xinhua reports, citing comments the Afghan leader made yesterday at a ceremony inaugurating Air Power Day at Kabul Air Base. Karzai gave no timetable for when the Afghan government expects to receive these 120 aircraft, according to the news piece. The US Air Force is assisting the Afghanis in the reconstitution and modernization of their air arm under the Combined Airpower Transition Team. There are currently about 120 airmen deployed in the Near East nation for this purpose, Lt. Gen. Gary North, USAF’s commander in the region, said on Jan. 15. Afghanistan has already received the first three of 22 Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters that the Czech Republic and United Arab Emirates are providing, with all 22 expected in country in March, the news report said.