'US campaign in Afghanistan has failed, troops should leave' – Russian envoy
Moscow does not see the need for further presence of the American contingent in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, who is also the Russian Foreign Ministry's director of the Second Asian Department in Afghanistan, told Izvestia daily.
“Moscow never hastened the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. But since the US Army [campaign] there has come to nothing, let them leave Afghanistan,” Kabulov said.
“The American campaign in Afghanistan has failed. Afghanistan risks becoming a global incubator of international terrorism. It has, in fact, already partially grown to become it,” Kabulov added.
Russia strongly opposes the American idea to replace the regular US Army in Afghanistan with military contractors.
“The US is in despair, and plans to replace the professional armed forces with mercenaries are stupid. It will not lead to anything good: mercenaries will simply break into a run. They recruit them from around the world, offering cash. How are they going to fight against the Taliban?” the diplomat wondered.
The US Department of Defense has spent more than $76 billion on weapons and equipment for the Afghan security forces since 2002, the US Government Accountability Office said last week.
Washington has paid for 600,000 weapons, including rifles and pistols, for the Afghan Army and police, the GAO report, released on Thursday, said.
The key equipment provided included 163,000 tactical and non-tactical radios; 76,000 vehicles, such as Humvees; 30,000 equipment items for disposing of explosives, such as bomb disposal robots; and 16,000 equipment items for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, such as unmanned surveillance drones, just to name a handful.
The report came as President Donald Trump said he is “very close” to announcing a new strategy on Afghanistan.
“It’s a very big decision for me,” he told reporters in Bedminster on Thursday.
“I took over a mess,” Trump said, “and we’re going to make it a lot less messy,” he added.
US wants an increase in troops in Afghanistan
Calling the situation in Afghanistan a “stalemate,” Army General John Nicholson told the US Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year that while he has enough troops for counterterrorism operations against the likes of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Islamic State, he would like several thousand more in order to boost the capabilities of the Afghan security forces.
Nicholson said troop injections could come from the US military or NATO nations.
“I have adequate resourcing in my counterterrorism mission,” Nicholson said in February.
"But the train, advise and assist mission has a shortfall of a few thousand troops,” he added, noting that the extra troops could come from the United States and its allies, many of whom are fighting in Afghanistan.
Nicholson said that offensive capability would eventually “break the stalemate in Afghanistan,” but it would also require an increase in troops stationed in Afghanistan in order to adequately train Afghan forces, Nicholson noted, specifically calling for increased funding for Afghanistan’s air force.
The US has spent more than $780 billion in Afghanistan since 2001, according to the National Priorities Project (NPP), with the research tank saying that “every hour, taxpayers in the United States are paying $4 million” for the war in Afghanistan.
From 2001 to mid-2016, around 173,000 civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan have died amid the American-led war, according to the Costs of War Project. More than 183,000 civilians have been seriously wounded in that time.
“We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives. If we have to go back in, we go in hard & quick. Rebuild the US first,” Trump tweeted in 2013.
About 8,400 US troops and 6,400 NATO soldiers remain in Afghanistan following the large-scale NATO troop reduction in 2014. US-led forces entered Afghanistan to end Taliban control more than 15 years ago, following the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks.