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Russian troops may train Afghans


London : Twenty years after the Soviet army quit Afghanistan, the Russian military may resume training Afghans, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

But NATO officials said the plan did not envisage having Russian troops in Afghanistan.

The Red Army was forced out by US-backed mujahideen in 1989 after fighting the guerrillas for about a decade.

The Guardian said the proposed plans precede an alliance summit next month to be attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Several joint NATO-Russian initiatives on Afghanistan were on the cards including the use of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, possible Russian training of Afghan national security forces and increased cooperation on counter-narcotics and border security, officials said.

But the officials said there was no question of Russian troops coming back to Afghanistan.

“There are no plans to reintroduce Russian soldiers into Afghanistan – (it’s) not part of Russia’s intent, not Afghan, and not ours. Russians may get involved in training helicopter pilots if they provide some helicopters, but not in Afghanistan itself,” a NATO spokesman said.

“In the past, Russians have collaborated on training counter-narcotics police outside of country. None of the initiatives on the table involve Russian troops in Afghanistan.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was quoted as saying: “Russia is strongly interested in increased cooperation… Last December, when I visited Moscow, I suggested that Russia provide helicopters for the Afghan army.

“Since then Russia has reflected on that and there are now bilateral talks between Russia and the US. I would not exclude that we will facilitate that process within the NATO-Russia council.”

Officials feel that Russian-made helicopters were more suited to Afghan conditions than their Western equivalents.

A diplomat pointed out that the Hamid Karzai government’s attitude would be key to the Russian plan to get involved in training Afghan army recruits.