New York: Rights groups have raised concerns that Afghan army personnel who defected to Uzbekistan would be deported to their country, Voice of America (VOA) has reported.
Following the US exit from Afghanistan on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other groups fear that Uzbek authorities will send back the Afghan refugees, where they would be vulnerable to reprisal from the Taliban.
As many as 585 Afghan military personnel and their families flew to Uzbekistan before the fall of Kabul. They were later forced to land at an airport in Termez.
"Now, Uzbekistan must decide whether to provide a haven for the refugees, send them back to Afghanistan or help them move to a third country. That decision is complicated by Tashkent's desire to establish friendly relations with the new Taliban government without offending Western powers," the VOA report said.
Washington should welcome these pilots to the US by offering them asylum, said Jennifer Murtazashvili, director at the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh.
Murtazashvili added that the US should Afghans just as it has done for other Afghan service members who were critical to the American war effort.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday said that the US has taken in almost 24,000 Afghans at risk as part of evacuations efforts from Afghanistan. The US allies and partners have also housed scores of Afghan refugees.