Uzbekistan Says Afghan Refugees Can’t Stay: REPORT

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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Uzbekistan, a nation in Central Asia that borders Afghanistan, warned the U.S. that refugees fleeing the Taliban wouldn’t be granted asylum, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Uzbekistan government recently urged the U.S. to take action and transport the refugees to a third nation, according to the WSJ. The small country reportedly doesn’t want to create tension with the incoming Taliban-controlled Afghan government by housing refugees including soldiers who fought alongside and were trained by American troops.

Republican Texas Rep. August Pfluger, a member of both the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, asked the State Department to address the issue, the WSJ reported. Several former Afghan Air Force pilots flew an estimated 585 refugees — including pilots, crew and family members — to Uzbekistan as the Afghanistan government collapsed to the Taliban earlier this month.

“In my mind, worst-case scenario was they go back to Afghanistan, and they’re murdered, but for sure they’re going to be met with what I would say is an uncertain fate,” Pfluger told the WSJ. (RELATED: US Intercepts 5 Rockets Aimed At Kabul Airport)

New Afghan air force pilots attend a class at the air force university in Kabul on Sept. 29, 2016. (Shah Marai/AFP via Getty Images)

New Afghan air force pilots attend a class at the air force university in Kabul on Sept. 29, 2016. (Shah Marai/AFP via Getty Images)

Pfluger asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to intervene and guarantee the safety of Afghan pilots’ safety, the WSJ reported. The Uzbek ambassador to the U.S. told Pfluger the refugees would not be forced to return to Afghanistan, but that they couldn’t stay where they were.

The State Department has yet to address the issue with the Uzbek government, a foreign official said, according to the WSJ.

“We thank the Uzbek government for continuing to host Afghans in Uzbekistan while we pursue all avenues for their long-term safety and security,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to the WSJ.

The Taliban, meanwhile, has hunted and executed members of the Afghan security services for months as the U.S. has withdrawn its troops, The New York Times reported. Air Force pilots are particularly disdained by the Taliban because of their role inflicting mass casualties via airstrikes, according to the WSJ.

Several Afghan pilots were executed in the beginning of the summer, according to Reuters.

The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Uzbekistan as being located in the Middle East.

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