US Buys Russian to Beef Up Afghan Forces

Pentagon has spent $650 million on Moscow's helicopters
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2010 1:18 PM CDT
An Mi-17 helicopter.   (Photo: Business Wire)
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(Newser) – Funny how the geopolitical world turns. Back in the day, the CIA gave Afghan rebels missiles to shoot down Soviet helicopters, notes the Washington Post. Now that the US is fighting its own war there, the Pentagon is beefing up the Afghan air corps—by buying Russian helicopters. The US has spent $650 million so far on the Mi-17 choppers and plans to buy dozens more.

Critics on Capitol Hill want to know why the Pentagon can't buy American, and the Pentagon can only reply that the Russian machines are flat out better. They're well-suited to Afghanistan's terrain and high altitudes, plus the Afghan pilots already know how to fly them. "We've got to get beyond the fact that it's Russian," says a US general. "It works well in Afghanistan."

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