May 7th, 2010
08:21 AM ET

Female pilot helps Afghan air force take off

[cnn-video url=http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/05/05/holmes.afghan.air.force.cnn]

Decades ago, Afghanistan's air force was in full operation. Today, that air force is being rebuilt, with some of the same helicopters and some of the same pilots as well - including the first woman in the Afghan Air Corps and currently the only one.

The only time Capt. Latifa Nabizada left the force was to flee to Pakistan when the Taliban took over in the 1990s - a woman pilot was a prime target for them.

"I wanted to be a pilot since I was a child," she says. "I also, as a woman, felt it was a responsibility to serve my country. So I joined 20 years ago. ... I stayed in because it's the love of my life, and I still feel the responsibility to not give it up."

Today, she is one of about 50 pilots training in Kabul, with a few others elsewhere in Afghanistan. And U.S. forces are helping mentor the pilots, training them on modern air force techniques for the 50 or so aircraft in the Afghan air force fleet.

Nabizada revels in the new training: "I've seen remarkable changes since we started this. We get training in air traffic control, pre-flight checklists, English language, instruments, navigation. These are skills we didn't have before."

On the training base in Kabul, a regular sight is Nabizada's 4-year-old daughter Malali. 

"Being a pilot and a mother is hard, actually," Nabizada says. "My husband is a doctor in the air force and we have no one to take care of her, so she comes with me every day. One day I'd like to see childcare in the air force."

Until then, Malali learns first hand about her country's air force and her mother's groundbreaking role. Will she follow in her mother's footsteps in the future? "Exactly," says Nabizada. "She will be a pilot in the future."

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Filed under: Life and Culture • Troops
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. davedog

    Hamed: "...eliminated once and for all." Are you saying we that millions of people – most of them innocent – should be killed? What an absolutely evil thing to contemplate! If there was a hell (there is NOT) you would surely go there for eternity. Are you a Muslim?

    May 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CATom

    Killing was bad when done under the bush regime. But now it is good because obama says so.

    May 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hamed

    If the world want peace and in this world then the world should get rid of two nations who are the major terorrist countries, one is the nasty Zionist and the other one is Pakistan. They are like the AIDS virus, it should be eliminated once and for all.

    May 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cranberry

    Liz – if the taliban overpowered the Afghan men, what makes you think they would not have been able to overpower the Afghan women? I mean, I know women rock and everything, but I'm not sure I understand your comment.

    May 7, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scott

    Its nice to see most of the comments alligned in agreement. And theres no way to express a proper thank you to our forces in country. Quite admirable really the whole story. From the pilot to the mentors and all the supporting personnel. I just wish there was anything I could do there at my age. Id drive a fuel truck and operate cargo equipment if the military would have me there... Anything to help/show support on any front. To ALL the boots on the ground~~ A most profound thank you!

    May 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bill Smith

    The Afghan air force was with the Soviets not against them.

    May 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. alumette

    What the heck is that plane she is flying? looks like some WW2 remnant. The girl needs jet experience.

    May 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Afghan guy

    And the person who wrote this, read your own article again. Is this taken out of the redneck section of CIA? The Afghan air force 2 decades ago was used against Mujahedeen and people like me, the common Afghan. Our village was turned into rubble in 2 hours because 50 Soviet tanks were destroyed by a few Mujahedeen fighters. The US does this exact same thing... punishing whole villages with B2 spirits an dother heavy bombers as a way of terror.

    So edit your article. The air force was used against Afghans back then, and still is today. The only difference being the Soviets supplied the air force with modernized planes, which the US refuses to do so. The US doesn't trust the Afghan gov't with cobras, apache's, or AC-130. Yet the Afghan gov't is carrying out everyone of CIA's commands.

    May 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Afghan guy

    Iraq Paramedic,

    Are you always that blood-thirsty and illogical? The Taliban are a nationalist group fighting for Afghanistan. There aren't many Afghans, other than the Karzai ones, that would hate Afghan nationalists. This is why the Taliban can run around the tribal regions freely...because they have vast support.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Doug

    Iraq Paramedic,

    I have to back you on your posts. Many people that make comments on here live sheltered lives that think if there were no military there would be no wars. How wrong they are. People like that are the one's saying "Give Peace a Chance" after diplomacy fails. Just like the hippies of the Viet-Nam era, these people are dillusional. She should be proud to go out and help her country by smoking a few Taliban.

    DRT

    May 7, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Slumjelly

    Cuddo's and thanks to all the persons in the world who fight oppression,hatred and prejudice. Especially those who put their lives on the line for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted in this country. If not for the people who are willing to put their lives on the line, we would not be speaking English in this country. Again! Thank You!! Until the people's of Afghanistan are educated in the ways of Democracy(all manners) and not a dictatorship as has been the case for thousands of years. Afghanistan's people and country will be a target for those who want to try and establish a dictatorship, no matter what the dictators may call themselves. ie taliban, al queda, plo, hezbollah. Uneducated equals weak minded and easier to controll for the dicators. I hope the people of Afghanistan will see this courageous and intelligent lady as an example of what can be accomplished.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Aemy Mom

    This is a great story! This lady is a HERO and an inspiration to all the women of her country. Keep her and her daughter safe and strong. HOOAH! I agree with the post above give her an apache and take out those woman haters in her country the ones that poison their little girls for becoming educated. Thank you NATO forces for all you do as well.

    Army Mom

    May 7, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DK

    The other thing that puzzles me is that I see a lot of former Soviet equipment there still. I wonder if the current Afghan government is paying off this old debt to the former Soviet Union now the Russian Federation for military hardware supplied almost 20 some years ago. Also if the current inventory is being maintained with parts and technical support from Russia. That would be a good story.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CSTC-AChris

    bailoutsos-Program not being scrapped...we're still here and will be doing this for a while. The Afghan National Army Air Corp training still has many phases to push through before this program will be "scrapped" as you say.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DK

    Yea the Afghan air force was supplied, supported and trained by the Soviets in the 1970's and early 80's. How can the editor make a huge mistake. They flew together against the mujahadeen, even though the Afghan air force at the time had older equipment including the Mig 15- and 17, and some older MI-17 and MI-8 helicoptors, all of which are Soviet built.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  16. GP

    ONesmallvoice,
    Your welcome to your opinion, but history has shown over and over again, those not willing to fight to pretect themselves will be conquered and enslaved. If you don't want to fight for what you believe in then fine, sit back and let us protect you're choice. However, we who do fight to protect the innocent and abused have no responsiblity to listen to you complain because you don't like the way we chose to protect ourselves and those people of the world who ar not strong enough to resist the evil thrown upon them.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  17. dlap

    The first sentence of this story doesn't make sense. Two decades ago, the Soviets had left. What's more, Afghanistan – the nation – never fought the Soviets. During the Soviet-Afghan war, the government was pro-Soviet.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Duane W

    JM- What you miss is the reason we are there. Did you forget where 9/11 was launched? You think we should not have gottent involved and just let those thousands who died in vain? I for one fully support us being there.

    As for this story, I am glad the people of Afghanistan are taking charge of their country again and want to eradicate the Taliban. This female pilot should hold her head high, I know I respect her.

    May 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  19. moon

    wow! what a cool story! I wish her the best. She brings her daughter to work with her, that is fantastic she is able to teach her daughter at a young age. I am more impressed that the military lets her do that. Are they smarter than us?

    May 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  20. lapster

    Something else for you onesmallvoice...her helicopter is very much used for transport of cargo and personnel with only a door gun, maybe two for self defense. Its a great jump platform too. I know in your brain housing group that your probably still thinking that it still contributes to death and dying...and you would be right, but the good Afgan Captain isn't directly "gunning" for the opposing force. There, feel a little better?

    May 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Liz

    If women in Afghanistan had been well armed in the first place, the Taliban would never have gotten to power. If we want the Taliban out, we need to empower these women to fight for their rights.

    May 7, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  22. JM

    OneSmallvoice-
    The Taliban committed the worst atrocities in Afghanistan in centuries. If you are purely anti-violence, you should recognize that the Taliban is not the answer and they need to be expelled. If your opinion is the US shouldn't be involved in this conflict, you are welcome to that opinion and please express it wisely and in a logical manner. However, you need to recognize that the Taliban are terrorists and murderes, not a valid and respected military force. The bloodshed that would follow a US withdrawal right now would far outweigh the current violence in the country.

    May 7, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  23. bailoutsos

    Too bad the shuttle program is getting scrapped. She would have been a good one to train to send to the space station.

    May 7, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  24. In Kabul

    This is a great story. The Afghan National Security Forces are making slow but steady progress in women's issues. My headquarters here in Kabul works with the Army, Police and Air Corps for training and development. The improvements in the security forces are felt throughout the nation.

    ( http://www.NTM-A.com )

    May 7, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  25. Iraq Paramedic

    Onesmallvoice, it is never great or good or exiting to kill anyone but, sometimes it is necessary to stop a greater violence being committed against innocent people. These Taliban buy little boys & raise & brainwash them to blow themselves & others up, they maim & kill women for nothing more than wanting an education, they buy & sell little girls as wifes & some times to the drug lords for god knows what, so you tell me young man what would you do, kiss & hug them & talk them into changing. Why don't you grab a plane & come on over & help instead of typing on your computer while pulling your pud!
    May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 7, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  26. edmontodontosaurus

    Two decades ago the Afghan Air Force wasn't in full operation against the Soviets, it was in full operation alongside the Soviets as their ally.

    May 7, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  27. Onesmallvoice

    Here's some more bla-bla-bla from Iraq Paramedic about how great is to kill "Taliban".Now we're going see more and more of this sickening bravado about this obscene war and how these women developed a taste teaching others how to kill.It gets very old!

    May 7, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  28. Iraq Paramedic

    You give that woman an apache with live ammunition & turn her loose on the Taliban & there will be a lot less Taliban.
    May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 7, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |