The US Department of Defense did not support the proposal of its inspector general for reconstruction in Afghanistan, John Sopko, who advised to “freeze” the purchase of Russian Mi-17 helicopters and American PC-12 aircraft for local special forces.
Contracts for the purchase of X-NUMX modified Mi-30 and 17 multi-purpose light-duty single-engine turboprop PC-18 helicopters were concluded by the US military with Rosoboronexport and Sierra Nevada in June and October last year, respectively. According to the reconstruction inspector’s office in Afghanistan, the cost of the Mi-12 supply contract was 17 million dollars, and the PC-553,8 cost was 12 million.
These vehicles should come into service with the Afghan aviation wing, designed to support the operations of the local special forces, which are now being created by the United States and NATO.
After analyzing the implementation of the plans to create this wing, Sopko and his subordinates stated that at this stage there are not enough Afghan pilots to service the purchased equipment. Now the wing is staffed only 180 military, which is less than one-quarter of the required number. In addition, it is necessary to improve the skills of these pilots before they can competently use the acquired helicopters and airplanes, the Inspector’s Office considers.
He presented his conclusions in the form of a new report on this topic. The key provision of this document was the recommendation to postpone the implementation of contracts concluded with Rosoboronexport and Sierra Nevada, ITAR-TASS reports.
However, the US Department of Defense did not agree with this conclusion. Commenting on him, Pentagon spokesman Jim Gregory, a US Army lieutenant colonel, said today that from the point of view of his department and the task of training the Afghan security forces “in the near future,” there is an “urgent need” to purchase Mi-17 for the wing being built optimal for the tasks that are put in front of this special forces unit.
In addition, “a thorough examination of all the information available to the ministry confirms that it is in the public interest to acquire the necessary for the Mi-17 wing from Rosoboronexport, Gregory stressed.
In a statement directly included in the report, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense overseeing relations with Afghanistan, Pakistan and the countries of Central Asia, Michael Dumont, said that recommending to freeze the implementation of contracts "does not meet our national interests." Such actions would only “drag out in unacceptable ways our efforts to turn the wing into a combat-ready force,” said Dumont.