US takes aim at Afghan army’s Russian rifles

US moves to replace the Kalashnikov with US-made weaponry are well advanced. (Reuters)
Updated 03 March 2018
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US takes aim at Afghan army’s Russian rifles

KABUL: US moves to replace the Kalashnikov — the infamous Russian assault rifle commonly used by Afghan security forces — with US-made weaponry are well advanced, defense officials told Arab News.
The US banned the Russian weapon six months ago, replacing it with M4 and M16 rifles, in a bid to shift the Afghan army’s main weaponry from a Russian to an American system.
The Afghan army rarely uses Kalashnikovs in combat with the Taliban militants. Except for a few Russian-made helicopters, the army is fully equipped with US and NATO weapons, defense officials said.
Afghanistan’s defense ministry handed over more than 10,000 rifles, which it received as a gift from Moscow several years ago, to the interior ministry.
“The process has begun. Some have been replaced, but we will still need them (Kalashnikovs) until given new guns. We still use both Russian and US weapons,” chief interior ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said.
There are no official figures on the number of Kalashnikovs used by Afghan police. Former army generals, who served during the country’s occupation by the former Soviet Union, say several hundred thousand Russian rifles have been stored, but a large number are still in use in the country.
The sturdy Kalashnikov is said to be favored by security force personnel as well as militant groups, including the Taliban and Daesh, which rely on various types of the same rifle, but copied and produced in other parts of the world.
The Kalashnikov is more reliable than the US-made M4 and M16 and does not rust easily, experts say.
A number of security force personnel have complained about the effectiveness of the M4 rifle.
“The Kalashnikov is a simple but solid weapon. It requires less time and resources to mend and even if you drop it in mud, it works fine afterwards,” said retired general Attiqullah Amarkhail.
He said “the US wants to control Afghanistan’s foreign and domestic policy forever,” which led it to replace the Russian weapon system in order to control the Afghan forces.
The US also barred Afghanistan from having Russian-made tanks and other heavy weapons repaired in India, which also uses the same arsenal, leaving a large number of tanks and heavy weapons idle.
Since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, US and other NATO countries have spent tens of billions of dollars rebuilding the Afghan security forces, which stand over 250,000.
Gen. Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, a former deputy interior minister, said replacement of the Kalashnikov and other Russian-made weapons had two benefits.
“Since America provides logistics and arms to Afghanistan, it will be easier for it to repair the US-made weapons. From another perspective, this can also be a part of the US rivalry (with Russia), because the US seeks a long-term presence here and repairing of US weapons can be lucrative for American firms.”


China: Plots to disrupt ties with Pakistan will fail

Updated 12 min 49 sec ago
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China: Plots to disrupt ties with Pakistan will fail

  • China has pledged $57 billion to build power stations, major highways, new railways and high capacity ports along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
  • China welcomes the good start made in its “all-weather” partnership with Pakistan following the election of the new government under Prime Minister Imran Khan

BEIJING: Any plots to sow discord in China’s ties with Pakistan will not prevail, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Tuesday, as Beijing fends off criticism of its economic projects in Pakistan and a clampdown in China’s western Xinjiang region.
China has pledged $57 billion to build power stations, major highways, new railways and high capacity ports along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a key part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road plan to further tie China to Eurasia.
The sustainability of Chinese projects has come under fresh scrutiny in recent months, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July warned that any potential International Monetary Fund bailout for Pakistan’s troubled economy should not be used to pay off Chinese lenders. Both Beijing and Islamabad say the loans are sustainable.
China welcomes the good start made in its “all-weather” partnership with Pakistan following the election of the new government under Prime Minister Imran Khan, State Councillor Wang Yi told Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
But “any conspiracies attempting to incite disharmony or interfere in China-Pakistan relations will not prevail,” Wang added, without elaborating, according to a statement released by China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday.
China and Pakistan should continue to make “all-out” efforts to promote the economic corridor, expand trade and reduce poverty to bring more benefits to the ordinary people of Pakistan, Wang said.
The relationship between China and Pakistan will not change, regardless of circumstantial changes, Qureshi told Wang, according to China’s statement.
The corridor is “extremely important” to Pakistan and has brought “deep impact” for jobs, development and livelihood, and Islamabad will take effective measures to ensure the security of the entire route, he added.
Beijing has faced growing international criticism from rights groups, some western nations and United Nations human rights experts over its sweeping security crackdown in the far western region of Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan.
Islamabad, like most governments of majority Muslim countries, has so far remained silent on the issue, but a group of Pakistani businessmen whose Chinese wives and children have been trapped in Xinjiang are lobbying the new government to help pressure Beijing into allowing their release.
Beijing says it faces a serious threat from extremist militants and separatists in Xinjiang and has rejected accusations of mistreatment.