Azerbaijan, Baku, June 14 /Trend, E.Tariverdiyeva/
As much as the U.S. and NATO should mourn the nine crew members who were killed on board, this accident should serve as a reminder as to the invaluable contributions and sacrifices this small, predominately Muslim country has made for NATO and American forces when other Coalition allies have been pulling out of Afghanistan, the head of Eurasian studies at the Heritage Foundation Ariel Cohen said.
"As much as this recent plane crash is a tragic event for NATO allies and for Azerbaijan, it is times like these that should make us appreciate the important roles this small country has played for America and will continuing playing in the future," Cohen said.
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, which is located in a geographically strategic region of South Caucasus and the Caspian Sea littoral, serves as a transit point for U.S. and NATO troops and supplies from the U.S. and NATO to Afghanistan via what is known as the Northern Distribution Network (NDN).
Beyond Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and the U.S. plan to develop a strategic security partnership. Through cooperation between the armed forces, this partnership would become integral in the protection of Azerbaijan's vast energy infrastructure in the Caspian Sea and its ability to transport its oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe while bypassing Russia, Cohen said.
Based on these positive developments, Azerbaijan represents one post-Soviet, Muslim state that the U.S. must continue to support not only because it has shown its reliability as a partner in Afghanistan, but also as a strategic ally essential for security of the Caspian energy supplies, the expert said.
A strong American relationship with Azerbaijan could reduce Europe's reliance on Russian oil and gas. Azerbaijan can be a helpful partner in dealing with its neighbors Iran and Russia; and serve as a model moderate culturally Islamic secular state that has been active in combating global terrorism, Cohen said.
Five members of the nine-person crew on the "Azerbaijan Airlines"cargo aircraft were Azerbaijani citizens. The other victims were Uzbekcitizens, the ambassador said. All crew members of the "AzerbaijanAirlines" cargo aircraft were killed.
Nine crew members and a total of 18 tons of cargo were on board the plane en route from Baku to Bagram. The plane picked up its cargo at the Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport and took off at 21:26 (local time).
The plane with a carrying capacity of 40 tons was built in 2005 and passed a full inspection in February 2011. It passed the subsequent inspection in June 2011.
An Azerbaijani commission to investigate the causes of the Azerbaijani plane crash in Afghanistan has stated that one of the priority versions of the plane crash is that 'Taliban shot down it.