NATO should finish job in Afghanistan – Putin
"It is regrettable that many participants in this operation are thinking about how to pull out of there," Putin said at a meeting with paratroopers in the Russian city of Ulyanovsk. "They took up this burden and should carry it to the end."
The Russian leader’s comments suggest that NATO should remain in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 withdrawal deadline.
Due to the planned pullout, Russia has been assisting NATO “not so much in transporting there [in Afghanistan], but in transporting from there,” Putin said.
The Russian president added that it would be in Russia's national interest to host a planned NATO transit base in Ulyanovsk for Afghanistan-bound military cargo.
When asked during a meeting with members and veterans of Russia's Airborne Forces whether Russia needed such a base, Putin repeated the question:"Do we need to fight there [in Afghanistan]?"
Receiving a negative response from the audience, he said: "Absolutely, definitely not,”before posing another question: "But do we need basic order in Afghanistan?"
"That is in our interest,” he said, after receiving an affirmative reply. “It's in our interest that we should have peace on our southern borders."
NATO has permanent troops in Afghanistan at the moment, he noted. "We should help them. Let them keep fighting there."
Putin then expressed his confidence in the ability of Russia’s Armed Forces to defend the country, should they be needed in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
"I realize that, if something breaks out that requires the involvement of our Armed Forces and you paratroopers, you will be ready,” he said, while adding that everything was being done to prevent such a scenario.
“But we politicians have the task of preventing such events," he said.
Putin also noted that Russia and NATO are divided on many issues, but that NATO is "doing the right kind of job" in Afghanistan.
The Russian president stressed that NATO was created during the period of confrontation between the Soviet Union and the West. "They believed that there was a threat from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Treaty, but now there is no threat but NATO still exists. That is an atavism," he said.
"So they are looking for work, for enemies,” he continued. “But in this specific case, they are doing the right kind of job, and we are helping them."
NATO forces have been battling Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan since October, 2001. The country has witnessed a recent spike in insurgent activity.
The NATO-led coalition reported this week that insurgent attacks had jumped 11 percent in the past three months compared to last year, as increasing numbers of poor farmers are joining the ranks of the Taliban.
To date, over 3,000 Coalition troops have lost their lives fighting in Afghanistan.