WASHINGTON, December 9 (RIA Novosti) – The US Defense Department is facing allegations that it misled Congress over the purchase of Russian helicopters for Afghan security forces amid revelations that a Pentagon study recommended an American-built aircraft for the job, the Associated Press reported.
The United States has bought dozens of Russian military transport helicopters for use in Afghanistan in the past two years, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, arguing that Afghan forces are more familiar with the aircraft.
But unclassified excerpts from a top-secret Pentagon study describes the US Army’s Chinook helicopter as “the most cost-effective single platform type fleet for the Afghan Air Force over a 20-year” period, the AP reported.
“Why are we buying Russian helicopters when there are American manufacturers that can meet that very same requirement?” US Senator John Cornyn of Texas was quoted by the AP as saying.
Cornyn has been leading a push in Congress to oppose the Russian helicopter deals because of Moscow’s weapons shipments to the government in Syria of President Bashar Assad, whose forces are fighting a brutal civil war against armed rebel groups.
Russia has insisted that it is fulfilling existing contracts with Syria and that the deliveries are legal under international law. Moscow has also raised questions about the composition and goals of the various armed groups fighting the Assad regime.
Congress recently received a copy of the report with the description of the Chinook helicopters, produced in Pennsylvania by US aerospace giant Boeing, the AP reported. A senior Pentagon official was quoted by the AP as saying that the report was focused on long-term requirements and not the immediate needs of Afghan security forces.
The US has purchased 63 Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopters from state-run Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport for use by the Afghan National Army.
The Pentagon said last month that it had scrapped plans to purchase additional helicopters from Rosoboronexport, a move it said was made after a re-evaluation of requirements for Afghan forces “in consultation with Congress.”
Cornyn has described purchases of hardware from the Russian arms maker as a “morally bankrupt policy” tantamount to “subsidizing Assad’s war crimes in Syria.”
The US and several other countries accuse the Assad regime of being behind an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that Washington claims left more than 1,400 dead.
The Syrian government has blamed the attack on rebel groups it has been battling since March 201. It has since agreed to a Russia-brokered deal to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.