Extending NATO presence in Afghanistan needs Security Council approval - Churkin

A French soldier from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stands alert in Mahmud Raqi, Kapisa Province, Afghanistan on July 4, 2012. (AFP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Russia is pressing NATO over its plans to keep military bases in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), scheduled for 2014.

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin stressed that the further presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan would require a decision by the UN Security Council.

The Russian diplomat also mentioned conflicting reports concerning the pullout, which is scheduled to take place in 2014.

"Contradictory statements that foreign troops…will leave Afghanistan, but foreign bases will stay raise questions,” Churkin said.

The diplomat argued that if the war against terror is winding down in Afghanistan, yet there will continue to be a permanent military presence, "then the bases are preserved for some other task that is not linked with Afghanistan."

"If the war on terror needs to be continued, then it will be necessary to have the mandate extended by the Security Council," he said.

We would like to have full clarity on this issue, he added.

Churkin also noted that before NATO authorizes any extension on its Afghanistan operation, the Alliance must report to the Security Council on the implementation "of the existing mandate."

Russia, which has given NATO use of an air corridor route for the delivery of cargo into Afghanistan, is no impartial observer to what happens in the region. Since the United States opened its military offensive in October 2001, Russia has witnessed an unprecedented rise in heroin shipments smuggled into the country.

Moscow wants to begin aerial defoliation methods to eradicate the Afghan poppy fields, whereas Washington is wary of destroying the grower’s livelihood, thus forcing them into the arms of terrorism for their survival.

"The military presence should not be used against the interests of Afghanistan's neighbors and countries of the region," the Russian Ambassador said.

Russia is interested in seeing Afghanistan develop into a "peaceful, stable, democratic state" in order to guarantee the "neutralization of the threats linked with terrorism and drug trafficking emanating from its territory."

In this regard, Churkin underlined the role of the UN mission in Afghanistan, arguing that after the withdrawal of NATO troops it should exist as the "coordinator of international civilian efforts to promote stabilisation, focusing…on the strengthening of Afghan sovereignty and the role of the Afghan people in governing the country."

The Russian Ambassador also expressed concern over the number of Afghan refugees, many of them terrorists, who are fleeing the immediate war zone.

"Terrorists…are being forced out to the north from where they enter the territory of other Central Asian states,” Churkin warned. “This poses a direct threat to the stability of the region."

Finally, against the background of NATO preparations for a withdrawal, he expressed concern over the wave of terrorist attacks that have swept Afghanistan.

With NATO-led coalition looking to exit the hotspot, President Putin in August said the ISAF should stay in Afghanistan until their job is finished.

"It is regrettable that many participants in this operation are thinking about how to pull out of there," Putin said during a meeting with paratroopers in the Russian city of Ulyanovsk. "They took up this burden and should carry it to the end."