When the U.S. led coalition changed its role in Afghanistan in 2015 a heavy focus was placed on building up the country's special forces operations to handle counter narcotic and counterterrorism duties.
One of the special forces groups includes an elite unit of aviators that gave ABC10 a firsthand look at how Afghans are working to wrest their country from the hands of people like ISIS and the Taliban.
"Our mission is a training flight from here to Hunter," said an Mi-17 Pilot. "We checked the weather, the weather is good. Aircraft, we checked aircraft, aircraft is good to fly. If we have an emergency the guy who fly's the primary aircraft, the guy's who's not flying, you're going to help the pilot. Brief is done. Any questions?"
"Will it be a smooth flight," asked Cami McCormick.
"Yeah, sure it is."
On the flight line are Mi-17 helicopters. They are part of the Special Mission Wing of the Afghan Air Force and they're going to be going up in one of these today to see their capabilities and what the Special Mission Wing is capable of.
The unit, Afghanistan's only special operations aviation element, operates two aircrafts. The fixed wing PC-12 and the Mi-17, a Russian helicopter that provides night and day air assaults during counter-narcotic and counterterrorism missions.
"I personally think the Special Mission Wing is the critical capability for the Government of Afghanistan," said Major Rick Moreno. "If you look at the, I guess the most obvious manifestation of combat power, it's the commandos, right? However, without the Special Mission Wing, they have nowhere to go. So what they're doing is very, very impressive. I can't really kind of tell somebody how impressive it is; with how they're resourced, the amount of time that they've had to get here, right? It took us generations to of military aviation to develop the 160th and high-end Marine aviation. They did it in 12 years."
The question now is how does this play into Trump's new strategy for victory in Afghanistan?
"In a sense, we're already there. They conduct the planning, they brief it themselves, they execute it themselves. We have, for unilateral operations, we have very little involvement. In the two instances where I've taken fire, both times I had an Afghan either pilot, or crew member in the back onboard and they returned fire, maneuvered the aircraft safely, kept calm, just like they're supposed to, so, it was success stories both times I've experienced it personally."
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