US drops plan to buy AAF Russian helicopters
KABUL (PAN): The US Department of Defense has dropped plans for the purchase of 15 additional helicopters from Rosoboronexport, a state-owned arms exporter, for the Afghan Air Force (AAF), reports said.
US officials and an influential lawmaker said on Wednesday the helicopter purchase plans were being cancelled as the Russian arms export agency had supplied Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime with arms and ammunition.
Maureen Schumann, the Pentagon spokeswoman, said: "After initially requesting funds from Congress in the 2014 fiscal year budget to provide additional enhancements for the Afghan National Security Forces, the department has re-evaluated requirements in consultation with Congress.
"We currently do not have plans to purchase additional Mi17s from Rosoboronexport beyond those in the Afghan Program of Record," she said about the $345 million helicopters that were to be bought next year for delivery to Afghan forces.
Senator John Cornyn welcomed the Pentagon's decision as a positive move. The Texas Republican said in a statement: "I applaud the Defense Department's decision to finally cancel its plan to buy additional helicopters from Rosoboronexport."
He added doing business with the Russian firm had been a morally bankrupt policy. As a nation, Americans should no longer be subsidising "Assad's war crimes", the lawmaker remarked.
Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation had also sent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel letters against the Pentagon’s idea of buying the helicopters.
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