Kremlin Will Send Military Aid To Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Dmitry Medvedev has accepted a request from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to provide military aid to Afghanistan, the Afghan government said Monday.

The move comes amid complaints by many Afghans that NATO and the United States, who have thousands of troops in Afghanistan, have been slow to equip Afghan national forces to fight the Taliban.

Afghanistan has largely relied on NATO and the United States to bankroll its security needs and the economy since U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

But despite receiving some military equipment from NATO, Afghanistan still uses Russian-made weapons and aircraft left over from the former Soviet Union's 10-year occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since the Taliban's removal, made the request by a letter to Medvedev in November, the presidential palace said in a statement.

"Medvedev, in a letter addressed to Karzai, has said that Russia is ready to help Afghanistan in the defensive sectors," the statement said.

Medvedev said defensive ties between Kabul and Moscow would result in effective cooperation on both sides and the restoration of security in the region, the statement said.

Russia was keen for cooperation with Afghanistan in other areas too, the statement quoted Medvedev as saying in the letter.

Chief presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said that despite Karzai's call on Russia for defensive aid, Afghanistan was committed to its ties with NATO and the United States.

"The equipment of our national army, our helicopters and tanks are Russian-made, so this [request] has a technical aspect. We have strategic commitment to NATO and the United States," Hamidzada said.

Some 70,000 foreign troops under NATO and U.S. military command are stationed in Afghanistan, and Washington is expected to send up to 30,000 extra forces by summer to the country, where the al-Qaida-backed Taliban have made a comeback since 2005.

U.S.-led and Afghan troops overthrew the Taliban government after it refused to hand over al-Qaida leaders wanted by Washington for masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.