'Strings attached': Moscow extends helping hand to NATO

NATO is to get more help from Russia in the Afghan war. At a ministerial meeting in Brussels, the sides discussed expanding the vital transit of military cargo to Afghanistan through Russian territory. But on what terms?

­Moscow has provided the alliance with air corridors and railway routes. The link is vital as Pakistan blocked NATO supplies from crossing its territory after an airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers six months ago.

At the same time, Moscow is clearly worried that the drugs and terrorism situation will deteriorate in Afghanistan after the pull-out of the international contingent.

“As long as the Afghan side is unable to provide security in the country, any artificial deadlines for troops’ withdrawal do not seem quite correct,” Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday, emerging from the Russia-NATO Council meeting.

“But when the UN Security Council mandate expires, there will be no reason for a foreign presence in Afghanistan and the region,” Lavrov added.

Lavrov also questioned Washington’s plans to keep its military contingent in Afghanistan after the pull-out of international troops in 2014. According to these plans, 20-30,000 US troops may remain in Afghanistan after 2014 in a backup role, in case it is decided to retain a few military bases in this country.

Bsnews.info co-founder Mike Raddie says those troops would be “conveniently located” along a proposed oil pipeline Russia and China might want to use in their interests.

“The Russians will obviously benefit from that oil pipeline in their own exports," he noted. "But it’s likely that the strings that are attached to the aid that’s forthcoming will ensure that the majority of the US troops, the combat troops, will be out by 2014.”

“I suspect some of these strings will be that the US and Western military will withdraw in 2014,” Raddie told RT. “The US, actually, what they are planning, is to have a substantial military presence until 2024, and I think that the Russians and the Chinese don’t favor that at all.”

­As NATO prepares to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, it finds itself in the midst of a series of scandals involving extreme breaches of discipline by US troops.

That is definitely not isolated incidents,” argues Mike Raddie. “The fact that we don’t hear about them in the West doesn’t mean they don’t happen almost on a daily basis… It seems that the US soldiers are fully aware that there are very few consequences to their actions when it comes to killing civilians.

Among the recent scandals is another series of photographs showing US soldiers posing with the gory remains of several Afghan suicide bombers. Washington insists that they show an isolated incident of young people caught up in the moment.