When the U.S. left Afghanistan in August 2021, so too did many members of the Afghanistan Air Force. Some Afghan pilots took themselves and their families out of the country to nearby Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, aboard aircraft which had belonged to the Afghanistan Air Force. Included among those aircraft were some which had been provided by the United States.
The Taliban, who overran Afghanistan as the U.S. exited the country, would like to have those aircraft back now. According to the Defense Department, when it comes to the U.S.-made helicopters, that's not likely to happen.
"We're still working out the disposition of those helicopters ... I don't have an update ... on any decisions about how they will be handled," said Kirby. "But I think it's safe to assume that they will not be sent into Afghanistan to be used by the Taliban."
The final decision on what happens to those aircraft, Kirby said, is something the Defense Department is still working on.
Currently, Kirby said, the Taliban are not recognized by the U.S. as the official government of Afghanistan, though he added that such decisions are not the purview of the Defense Department.
"What we would say is I think what everybody has said across the administration: that we want to see human rights, civil rights, we want to see the promises made by the Taliban actually delivered in terms of how people are going to be treated in Afghanistan."
Kirby also told reporters that the Defense Department's mission is to continue to protect the United States, including from any terrorism threats that may emanate from Afghanistan.
"We're going to stay eyes-on to what's going on there," he said. "We have serious, significant counterterrorism responsibilities. We have over-the-horizon capabilities that we can avail ourselves of, and we're going to continue to make sure that Afghanistan doesn't serve as a safe haven for an attack on the homeland again."