• publish: 14 January 2016
  • time: 10:20 am
  • category: Security&Crime
  • No: 2993

Moscow to deliver small arms to Afghanistan

Russia will ship small arms to Afghanistan next month, a top diplomat announced Wednesday, expanding Moscow’s role as the United States winds down its military mission even as the Taliban and other militants appear to gain ground.

Russia is concerned that extremist factions in Afghanistan could increasingly spill over the northern borders into former Soviet Central Asian countries were Russia has a major military presence.

It comes at a time at which Russia is expanding activities outside its borders, conducting wide-ranging airstrikes in Syria and pushing for a bigger international role to resolve a series of conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.

The shipment of small arms will take place in February, but Russia does not have further plans to ship other weapons, said President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Afghanistan.

“For now this is quite sufficient,” the diplomat, Zamir Kabulov, told the Interfax news agency.

The United States and its allies have withdrawn most of their military presence over the last year, leaving Kabul searching for new partners in its efforts to fend off the Taliban.

Russia has trained Afghan air force pilots in the years since a U.S.-led alliance toppled the Taliban following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. But Afghan officials in recent months have pushed Moscow to increase its aid.

Russia has sent arms to Kabul after being paid by intermediaries, including India. Last fall, a series of Afghan officials visited Moscow to request helicopter gunships and heavy weaponry.

Putin said in October that the situation in Afghanistan was “close to critical” and has signaled an openness to increasing his nation’s role there.

But any significant escalation would come with extreme caution from Moscow, where memories of Afghanistan as a graveyard for Soviet troops remain powerful.

The 1979-1989 war there cost thousands of Soviet military lives, and was a factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet army battled insurgent forces that were backed by the West and attracted Islamists fighters such as Osama bin Laden.

Even now, military casualties are one of the most politically sensitive subjects in Russia.


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