December 16, 2017
The United States has been pressuring Afghanistan to ditch the thousands of free Kalashnikov assault rifles that it has received from Russia and buy American equivalents instead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says.
“The Americans insist that 50,000 Kalashnikov rifles with munitions that were handed over to the Afghan security forces free of charge be removed from operational use and Afghanistan buy US-made rifles and submachine guns instead,” Lavrov told Russian lawmakers Friday.
Russia has donated the weapons over the past few years, with at least 10,000 of them having been delivered in 2016.
Upon receiving the batch, Hanif Atmar, who is the national security adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, hailed the move as a sign of the “deep friendship between” Afghanistan and Russia.
“This important donation is from an important friend of Afghanistan in a crucial time for Afghanistan and the region,” he said at the time.
Having been in use for decades now, the AK rifle series has proven reliable in various battle conditions. Its older, iconic model, the AK-47, remains in active use in Afghanistan and other countries.
‘Militating against Russia just for the fun of it’
Lavrov said Moscow had already raised concerns with Kabul about the true intentions behind the US demand and the fate of the Russian-provided weapons in case the Afghans cave in to the US pressure.
“Along with a question where these 50,000 rifles are to go — and we have asked the Afghans about that — we have another question: what is the reason behind these plans to strip the Afghan army of the possibility to use weapons it is accustomed to and to make it use what it is yet to get comfortable with,” he said. “There is no answer to this question other than that the Americans are seeking to militate against us just for the fun of it.”
According to the top Russian diplomat, Washington has also told the Afghan government to stop buying Russian helicopters and opt for US-made rotorcraft.
Afghanistan has been plagued by years of militancy and a devastating US-led war that has been raging since 2001. It is now almost entirely dependent on foreign aid to maintain security.
The latest push to replace Russian weapons with American ones seems in line with US President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan, which includes prolonged military presence and an increase of troop levels in the country.