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.”


Eritrea responds to Ethiopia PM’s olive branch

Updated 20 June 2018
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Eritrea responds to Ethiopia PM’s olive branch

  • Eritrea and Ethiopia remain bitter foes after a 1998-2000 conflict that drew comparisons to the First World War
  • Even after the end of the war, the border remains heavily militarised and disputed

ADDIS ABABA: Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is dispatching a delegation to Addis Ababa for “constructive engagement” with arch-foe Ethiopia after peace overtures this month from its new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, a senior Eritrean diplomat said on Wednesday.
Isais made the annoucement — a potentially significant breakthrough in one of Africa’s most protracted conflicts — earlier on Wednesday, Eritrea’s ambassador to Japan, Estifanos Afeworki, said on Twitter. He gave no further details.
Eritrean information minister Yemane Ghebremeskel did not respond to requests for comment.
Eritrea and Ethiopia remain bitter foes after a 1998-2000 conflict that drew comparisons to the First World War, with waves of conscripts forced to march through minefields toward Eritrean trenches, where they were cut down by machine gun fire.
Casuality figures are disputed in both countries although most estimates suggest 50,000 Ethiopian soldiers died, against 20,000 on the Eritrean side.
Even after the end of the war, the border remains heavily militarised and disputed, most notably the town of Badme which was part of Eritrea, according to a 2002 international arbitration ruling.
Since then, Addis has ignored the ruling and refused to pull out troops or officials, to the fury of Asmara.
However, Abiy, a 41-year-old former soldier who has embarked on a radical economic and political reform drive since taking over in March, stunned Ethiopians this month when he said Addis would honor all the terms of the settlement between the two countries, suggesting he was prepared to cede Badme.
In parliament this week, Abiy also acknoewledged the tensions continued to inflict a heavy economic cost on both countries and said Addis should no longer hide this price tag from the Ethiopian people, another stunning departure with the past.
There has so far been no official response to Abiy’s overtures from Eritrea, one of the Africa’s most closed states.