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

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.”

Fears grow as ‘chamki’ fever kills 100 children in Bihar

Updated 17 June 2019

Fears grow as ‘chamki’ fever kills 100 children in Bihar

  • Multi-disciplinary institute planned to identify reason behind disease
  • Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, caused by viruses. Symptoms include high fever, vomiting

NEW DELHI: When Arun Ram took his four-year-old daughter Sandhya Kumari to hospital in late May, he thought she was suffering from fever brought on by a seasonal virus.

But within 12 hours of her admission his daughter had died.

The initially mild fever had run out of control, causing mental disorientation, seizures and delirium.

Kumari was among more than 100 children who fell victim to acute encephalitis syndrome in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

The state’s central districts of Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sheohar and East Champaran are worst affected. Official estimates suggest a death toll of 130, with 15 children under the age of 10 dying on Sunday alone.

Locally, the syndrome is known as “chamki” fever.

“In my hospital, 291 patients have been admitted, 91 have been discharged and 83 have lost their lives up until Monday,” said Dr. Sunil Kumar Sahi, medical superintendent of Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur.

“The cause of the death is not known,” he told Arab News.

“This is matter of research. We follow a medical protocol in treating such patients because all the children are suffering from inflammation of brain or encephalopathy.

“We are telling the people that they should not come out in the heat, and they should eat on time. If there is a fever, they should take a cold bath and take medicine.” 

Sanjay Kumar, Bihar government’s principal secretary, said that the disease had affected 222 blocks in 12 districts in central Bihar.

On Sunday, a five-year-old girl died in front of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan while he was visiting the hospital.

“The situation is really grim in the area adjoining Muzaffarpur. The death toll has reached 127, but government data is still not giving a clear picture,” Raj Kumar, a local reporter, said.

The government has announced it will set up a 100-bed hospital to ease the growing concern in the region. 

A team of doctors has been deployed in central Bihar’s main hospitals to handle the growing number of cases.

“A multi-disciplinary institute will be set up here in the next year to identify the reason behind this disease,” the health minister said.