Sunday, 22 April 2012

US FORCES MUST LEAVE AFGHANISTAN BY SEP 2014: RUSSIA

Russia has expressed concern over the United States plans to maintain its military footprint in Afghanistan after the pullout of international troops by the end of 2014.
After a Thursday meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference that there would be no reason for the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan after the United Nations Security Council mandate ends in 2014.

“We … do not understand such [US] plans to maintain a presence …, we have questions and we would like to get answers,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

“So long as the Afghan side is unable to provide security in the country, any artificial deadlines for troops’ withdrawal do not seem quite correct. But when the UN Security Council mandate expires, there will be no reason for a foreign presence in Afghanistan and the region,” he added.

He also voiced concerns over drug trafficking and heroin cultivation in Afghanistan. Russia’s federal drug control watchdog has reported that the heroin production in Afghanistan rose 40-fold during the course of the last decade.

Afghan security forces, estimated to number around 330,000 , are expected to take over part of the fighting in the country, as the US pulls out 23,000 troops to reach 68,000 by the end of September.

Insecurity continues to rise across Afghanistan, despite the current presence of some 130,000 US-led forces in the country.

All foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave and hand over security operations to the Afghan Army by the end of 2014.

However, after that date, the US may keep a number of forces to train and help the Afghan army with their operations, reports say.

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