20 February 2013, 18:03

Afghanistan: armed forces without an Air Force

Afghanistan: armed forces without an Air Force

The Afghan Air Force possesses a fleet of helicopters – 43 Russian-made Mi-17 transport choppers and 6 Mi-35 gunships – but not a single warplane, after all of its Soviet-era MiG-21s were destroyed in the 1990s wars with the mujahideen.

American promises to supply it with 20 light jet fighters and 4 Hercules transport jumbos remain unfulfilled. All this, after over 11 years of the American-led war in Afghanistan. Afghan and NATO officials have heard complaints about this from Afghanistan’s Air Force commander General Abdulwahab Wardak. 

Board chairman of the Moscow-based Demography Institute Dr Yuri Krupnov suspects the Americans just don’t want Afghanistan to possess a modern fighting force:

"They need the Afghan army only inasmuch as it can help them suppress the Taliban. Making it a powerful arm of the next Afghan regime is not on their plans."

Professor of Russia’s Defence University Oleg Kulakov says the American indecision is down to the uncertainty over how the Afghan leaders would use a powerful fighting force in their hands.

He also points out that Russia could easily meet Afghanistan’s requirements in warplanes:

"Russia has the jets for this and it can also train Afghan pilots for these jets. The Afghan pilots of the previous generation do not possess the necessary skills. Final decisions are up to the Big Brother in everything that concerns Afghanistan, the United States. No one else can give the green light to Russian supplies or pay for them."

Dr Kulakov also believes that by making his statement, General Wardak issued another plea for the American-led coalition to stay. As the matters stand now, the Afghan army sustains 5 times the coalition’s casualty rate. Left to its own devices and without a modern air force, it would get a really rough deal.

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