MOSCOW, June 15 (RIA Novosti)
Central Asia Set to Receive U.S. Military Equipment from Afghanistan
U.S. and NATO forces are to leave Afghanistan by 2014. After the withdrawal, some U.S. military equipment might remain in various Central Asian states. The U.S. Department of Defense is currently negotiating this issue with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan behind closed doors.
If implemented, this plan would allow Washington to expand its military cooperation with Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) member countries. A Russian diplomat said, on condition of anonymity, that Moscow considers this scenario to be “absolutely unacceptable.”
The paper’s well-informed sources close to the defense ministries of the Central Asian republics say the Pentagon wants to transfer military equipment and weapons systems, now being used by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan after 2014. The republics will receive some of the equipment, including armored vehicles, tank transporters, prime movers, tank trucks, special-purpose graders, bulldozers and water trucks, free of charge. Some of this equipment will be stored at local installations. In addition, the Pentagon plans to provide Afghanistan’s neighbors with medical equipment, communications systems, fire extinguishing equipment and even mobile gyms and other household facilities.
The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry’s officials said talks with the Pentagon were in progress. A source noted that the issue was first raised during U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s March 13 visit to Bishkek. At that time, Pentagon representatives met with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Talaibek Omuraliyev and suggested providing the Kyrgyz army with U.S. military equipment after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
ISAF forces in Afghanistan currently use thousands of armored personnel carriers, Humvee SUVs, other armored SUVs and auxiliary equipment. Pentagon analysts believe that it would be inappropriate to ship most of this equipment home or to leave it in Afghanistan. Washington fears that the equipment would fall into the hands of the Taliban assuming a Taliban victory. For its part, Pakistan has increased transit rates 20-fold, from $250 to $5,000 per container. Moreover, the United States believes that the military equipment might have to be used in Afghanistan, Central Asia or Pakistan later on.
Afghan security forces will need only part of the U.S. equipment. Central Asian defense ministries, which receive modest funding, might take advantage of this fact. And Washington might obtain more favorable freight transit and military deployment terms, while bargaining with Afghanistan’s neighbors.
A Russian diplomat said this scenario ran counter to specific agreements with Moscow’s Central Asian partners and other agreements within the CSTO framework.
A sizable U.S. presence might emerge on the Central Asian arms market, which primarily receives Soviet and Russian-made equipment. Moscow’s partners might eventually get used to having U.S. equipment.
It appears that CSTO members have every right to independently negotiate U.S. military equipment deliveries, all the more so as Moscow has recently turned Ulyanovsk into a transshipment center for NATO consignments being withdrawn from Afghanistan, without coordinating the decision with the CSTO.