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Shooting Your Foot Off: US Says Due to Russia Sanctions Can No Longer Maintain Afghanistan's Helicopter Fleet

It spent millions buying Russian-made helos but says since 2014 legal restrictions prevent it from buying spare parts


We have more on the Afghanistan helicopter saga. US military wants to replace Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters that it had previously spent millions to purchase for Afghanistan with US-made Black Hawks. 

Question is why?

The commander of the American occupation in Afghanistan was asked just this:

GEN. NICHOLSON: Right. So the -- the -- as you know, the decisions on the MI-17s were made prior to Crimea, prior to Ukraine, prior to the international sanctions on that. So the Afghans traditionally had a core of MI-17 pilots who were trained on the airframe and some of them very experienced. So early before Crimea, Ukraine, before sanctions, there was international support for continuing with Russian-made airframes.

That all changed after 2014 and after those sanctions were imposed.

The general says that since 2014 there is no longer "international support" to continue with the Mi-17s. What he really means to say that since 2014 the US Congress has been complaining about sending money to Russia's state arms exporter while there was supposed to be a sanctions regime against it.

Apparently this has now stopped so that a workaround had to be devised where it was Australia which went in and bought the spare parts from the Russians:

And then -- and then during this period, we need to sustain the MI-17s long enough to bridge through this period. So we're getting help from some allies on this and partners on the this, the Australians, others are helping to fund maintenance on the MI-17s to -- to enable them to bridge this period until the UH-60s are fielded.

The reason it had to be Australia is because the Afghan military costs more than is the entire budget of Afghanistan. It is subsidized by governments of the occupying powers and could never be maintained by Afghanistan alone.

Apparently the workaround wasn't a lasting solution, because the general claimed Afghan government had to get involved and ask the Russians to deliver the parts for free:  

Q:  But ideally, they'd want to keep the MI-17s, correct, because this is a step back as far as having to retrain pilots?

GEN. NICHOLSON: Well, the MI-17s are a great airframe that the Afghans use and they're comfortable with. The -- the issue's gonna be the ability to maintain them. And so this -- so maintaining the airframe -- you know, keeping the airframe in the inventory but not being able to maintain it was not -- would not be positive. And so the -- the Afghan government has gone to the Russians and asked for their assistance in this. The Russians have not provided it.

And -- and so the Afghan government solicited from them help with maintaining these airframes. They haven't -- they have not agreed to do it. And because of the sanctions on Russia, the maintenance of this fleet's gonna be very difficult.

So then US does not want to give money to Russia, and Russia does not want to give the parts to the Afghan government for free. Lest you have sympathy for the poor Afghan government consider that it receives billions in aid, but most of that money ends up embezzled. It could easily pay for the parts if it spent less on corruption. (That is if the US general is even speaking the truth.)

On the other hand the episode goes to show the US government needs no lessons from Afghans on waste. So now because the US Congress is unwilling to fork over some spare change to the Russians, a multi-million dollar rearming and retraining effort is required that will incidentally do wonders for the bottom line of the Congressman's best friend -- the defense contractor. 

Talk about inventing a problem and shooting the American taxpayer in the foot!


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