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7 Oct, 2009 14:54

NATO needs Russia’s help as Afghanistan operation becomes priority

NATO needs Russia’s help as Afghanistan operation becomes priority

As Russia-NATO ties continue to mend, it is becoming clear that the Western bloc sets Afghanistan as priority and is ready to sacrifice all other objectives to assure success in this country.

On Tuesday, Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin met with the NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, Admiral James Stavridis. According to news agencies, the sides spoke of a whole range of security issues, but one topic was highlighted and this topic was the situation in Afghanistan. After the meeting, the Russian envoy told reporters that he had repeatedly urged NATO colleagues to hold expert consultation on Afghanistan with the participation of diplomats and other specialists.

Also on Tuesday, NATO spokesman James Appathurai held a video link with Russian news agency RIA Novosti, at which he advised Russian reporters on the current state and perspectives of Russia-NATO relations. At this news conference the question of Afghanistan was also raised and the NATO official stressed the supreme importance of the issue.

Mr. Appathurai said that the General Secretary of NATO wanted the troops to be more deployable and suited for operations outside the member-countries and when asked where NATO planned to deploy the mobile troops that were to be developed, the spokesman said that he first of all meant Afghanistan.

The official also praised the Russian authorities’ decision to grant the US and NATO a ground corridor that would allow them to bring more supplies to Afghanistan through the so-called northern corridor – the route that is being developed now after Taliban threatened the transport convoys coming through Pakistan. Mr. Appaturai noted that the northern corridor was almost complete and the Western nations fighting in Afghanistan had agreements with all necessary countries, but one.

Although the spokesman did not specify which nation he was talking about, he most probably meant Tajikistan. Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are themselves facing a threat from the territory of Afghanistan and have already agreed in principle that they will provide help. Russia has repeatedly stated that the situation in Afghanistan is threatening its security, and earlier this year the Russian envoy to NATO openly announced that the withdrawal of Western troops from this country would lead to a Taliban attack on neighboring states in Central Asia and the Caucasus. “This will be a global headache,” Rogozin said.

At the same time, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov said recently that the military solution was not working in Afghanistan and that his nation would only render peaceful aid to its neighbor.

However, during the video link with Moscow, the NATO spokesman assured reporters that the last agreement they need for the northern corridor will be reached soon.

In a separate development, Russia has hinted that, apart from logistics support to Western allies, it could now send law enforcers to Afghanistan – a move that was previously ruled out by Russian diplomats. But on Wednesday, the head of the Russian drug enforcement agency Viktor Ivanov said that he planned to develop a joint plan with the US presidential administration to tackle heroin traffic from Afghanistan. The official also added that Russia was ready to send instructors to Afghanistan to train local agents. If this happens, it will be the first example of Russian involvement in Afghani territory since Soviet troops left the country in 1989.

Kirill Bessonov, RT