At Balkh airfield in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, Taliban fighters excitedly snap photos of a Russian-made MI-17 helicopter touching down.

On board are senior Taliban officials. Sitting in the cockpit are their former enemies: pilots from the old Afghan air force.

Maulvi Abdullah Mansour, the Taliban commander in charge of the airfield, shows me round the fleet he now controls. It includes attack helicopters and fighter planes, gifted to the previous government by international forces.

Under the old government, the aircraft were often used to target the group. It’s not clear how they will be used now that the war is over. “If we ever need them in the future, they are here,” Mansour says.


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