Kabul can reach out to region for military aid: Campbell
KABUL (Pajhwok): Resolute Support Mission commander Gen. John Campbell on Thursday said Afghanistan was a sovereign country and could reach out to regional countries for military assistance, including Russia.
Speaking at a press conference here, the US and NATO forces top commander in Afghanistan said US President Barack Obama last month made a very important announcement to keep some troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016.
He said the announcement was very important and beneficial for the Afghanistan people, government and security forces.
Gen. Campbell said Obama’s announcement enabled NATO to easily device their post-2016 plans for Afghanistan.
He said NATO strongly supported the Afghan national unity government and would continue to support Afghanistan also beyond 2017 both financially and militarily.
“President Barack Obama has faith in President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah,” he said.
The US general said so far 25 NATO member countries had pledged cooperation in the post-2016 Afghanistan mission and the same was expected from other member countries in the near future.
Gen. Campbell asked the Taliban to join the Afghan peace process, but said the division of the insurgent group into various factions would threaten the peace effort. He said the peace process would resume, but it would take some time.
He said Pakistan, China and the United States were still trying to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and urged them to send authorized representatives to the talks.
To a question that the US would no longer target Taliban militants until they posed direct threats, he said the Pentagon spokesman had misspoken and later it had been clarified that the Taliban were not friends of the US because they had killed many Americans in the past.
However, he said the American forces were currently not conducting operations and that way why the Afghan forces had come under increased Taliban attacks. He said NATO was training and equipping Afghan forces against insurgent attacks.
To a question by Pajhwok Afghan News, Gen. Campbell admitted the existence of ghost soldiers in the Afghan security forces.
He said they first received information about ghost personnel in the Afghan Local Police and stopped their salaries.
He said casualties and desertions among the Afghan national forces had increased and urged the Afghan youth to join the national forces.
Calling the ongoing fighting season full of challenges, the NATO commander said the Afghan forces had bravely defended the country’s soil.
He said efforts to strengthen the Afghan Air Force were underway and the force would be equipped with American fighter jets next month and other aircrafts would be delivered over the next three years.
He said currently the Afghan Air Force had 100 different aircrafts which were effectively conducting their operations.
Gen. Campbell said the American army had a history of 200 years and the Afghan army was only a decade-old and more work was needed in this regard.
He said the US forces had provided air support to the Afghan forces during their operations in northern Kunduz and southern Helmand provinces.
About Afghanistan’s move to reach out to regional countries, Russia, China and India for military assistance, Gen. Campbell said Afghanistan was a sovereign country and had every right to maintain relations with these countries.
He said the terrorists knew no boundaries and belonged to no religion and regional countries should fight the menace jointly.
He said they had no opposition to the unity government’s efforts at winning regional cooperation against terrorism.
“What they (national unity government) are doing is reaching out regionally, making this a regional perspective, I think that’s ok.”
He said there had been talk in the news that India was providing Mi-35 helicopters. “I think that’s absolutely okay for the country to reach out to the region to do that.”
On Russia, he said he would say that Afghanistan was a sovereign country and he had talked to President Ghani and CEO Abdullah about how they moved forward there.
“But I think they have to be cognizant of what Russia is doing in Syria, what Russia’s doing in Iraq. And as they work with other countries, they need to make sure that they’re getting everything that they need.”
“So from the United States and the coalition, if we give you something, we’re giving you life cycle management. So you’re getting a weapon, you’re getting the ammunition…the maintenance, and the training.”
He said many countries might say they would give, but then they did not follow on. “And I haven’t seen anything from Russia lately, provided to Afghanistan other than what they did many, many years ago when they tore up Afghanistan. So that’s where I am on Russia.”
The NATO commander said they were buying Humvees and ammunition and were providing Mi-17s and about 20 new Md-35 attack helicopters and an A-29 fixed wing bomber coming in December.
He said they had done a study on what other helicopters and aircraft they should buy for the Afghan forces.
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