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Former US military adviser’s tweets help injured Afghan pilot get surgery

An Afghan pilot trains with American contractors on a UH-60 Black Hawk at Kandahar Airfield in November 2017. A recent Twitter post by Jack McCain, who served as a military adviser in Afghanistan, led to better medical care for one of his former student pilots following a combat injury.

PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN/STARS AND STRIPES

By J.P. LAWRENCE AND ZUBAIR BABAKARKHAIL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 1, 2021

KABUL, Afghanistan — A viral tweet by a former U.S. military adviser in Afghanistan helped a pilot who had been injured in combat get specialized medical treatment that wasn’t available in the country.

Helicopter pilot and military affairs writer Jack McCain tweeted Tuesday that one of his former students, Gulrahman Qubadi, had suffered serious injuries when his UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was downed by a Taliban rocket in southern Afghanistan last July.

McCain, a Navy reservist and son of the late Sen. John McCain, emphasized that he was acting in a private capacity as he advocated for Qubadi.

McCain’s tweets were liked and shared more than 6,000 times, and the outpouring of support led to Qubadi being scheduled for emergency surgery in India this week.

Qubadi had been injured in a Taliban-claimed attack. It was one of two last year in which Afghan air force helicopters were shot down by anti-tank guided missiles thought to be provided by Iran, The New York Times reported.

He arrived in India last month, where he awaited medical care for a damaged cornea and extensive nerve damage in his arm.

Qubadi was in stable condition following arm surgery Thursday, said Abdulhaq Azad, spokesman for the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi. He will be transferred soon to another hospital for eye treatment.

Qubadi “is a good person that I respect, and I wanted to do everything I could to try to get him the care he needs,” McCain told Stars and Stripes in a direct message.

Qubadi intends to return to duty after he recovers from his injuries, McCain said.

An Afghan defense official confirmed Thursday that Afghan and Indian authorities decided to help Qubadi after McCain’s tweets went viral.

“He got the attention of the right people who can help him,” the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Qubadi is one of the elite pilots of the Afghan air force, which is seen as a key element fighting the Taliban, as U.S. and NATO troops decide whether to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Increasing demands on the air force have strained the service, which has lost almost a quarter of the operational aircraft in its inventory over the past year, a recent report to Congress by the Lead Inspector General for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel said.

Pilots have also been increasingly targeted in assassinations by insurgents.

McCain said he is thankful for the support online, and for the Indian and Afghan help in assisting Qubadi.

“Taking care of your people is the primary duty of any military officer, and regardless of whether I am with him or not, if I had the capability to do something, I was going to,” he said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland contributed to this report.

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