MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - The suspension of NATO cooperation with Russia is expected to directly affect the combat efficiency of the Afghan Army, Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan said Friday.
“Because NATO decided to curtail cooperation with Russia, this will unfortunately directly impact the combat efficiency of the Afghan Army. Evidently, this is a shortsighted approach from NATO partners that will hurt themselves. The Afghan Army will not have the necessary combat efficiency,” Andrei Avetisyan told journalists.
As part of the cooperative efforts, the US bought Mi-17 helicopters for Afghanistan from Russia. The first contract for deliveries of 21 helicopters, signed by Russia’s arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, and the US government in May 2011, has been already fulfilled. Last year, Russia delivered 12 Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopters to Afghanistan under a 2012 option.
The same year, Rosoboronexport signed another agreement to deliver a batch of 30 helicopters. The US sanctions against Russia thus far have not targeted the Russian helicopter supplies to Afghanistan.
Russia supplies the Afghan Army with spare parts for helicopters and hosts training courses for Afghan helicopter technicians at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant. Russia also trains Afghan anti-drug police. Russia is also prepared to provide further assistance to the Afghan Army, the ambassador said.
“Both projects have been directly targeted by the US and NATO decision to suspend cooperation with Russia. But we will continue these projects,” Avetisyan added.
“Our approach is responsible. We have decided to assist the fight against terrorism and drugs in Afghanistan and the political environment is not going to stop us. We will continue these projects using our own funds, and we will also be searching for partners,” the diplomat said.
Over the past four years, Russia has delivered around 37,000 Kalashnikov rifles and machine guns, and ammunition free of charge, Avetisyan said.
NATO foreign ministers announced the decision to suspend all practical contact with Moscow in early April.
Shortly afterward, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed hope that the suspension would not affect Russia’s participation in joint international projects in Afghanistan, including training anti-drug officials in the country.