Afghanistan to acquire military helicopters from India

Published: November 6, 2015
India has donated light helicopters, vehicles and provided military training in the past. PHOTO: NOSINT

India has donated light helicopters, vehicles and provided military training in the past. PHOTO: NOSINT

KABUL/NEW DELHI: Afghanistan is poised to acquire four attack helicopters from India to help it fight a growing Taliban insurgency, a small but significant deal marking a shift in Kabul’s search for allies that is likely to anger Pakistan.

Soon after he took over, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held off military assistance from India while he courted Pakistan’s political and military leadership to end years of mutual hostility and steer the Taliban, many of who live in Pakistan, toward negotiations.

But a wave of bombings in Kabul that Ghani said were plotted in Pakistan, followed by the Taliban encircling major cities including briefly taking over Kunduz in the north, has prompted a scramble to shore up support in the region.

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Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar is due in New Delhi this weekend to finalise the transfer of the Russian-made Mi-25 helicopters, said sources in New Delhi and Kabul who are involved in the plans.

Afghan forces badly need air power to reverse gains by the Taliban and in particular helicopter gunships that have range as well as firepower, the officials said.

While the United States has agreed to supply Afghan forces with light McDonnell Douglas MD 530 helicopters, which can be fitted with weapons, many Afghan officers prefer the bigger, sturdier Russian machines.

Atmar will be discussing with his Indian hosts the fight against terrorism as well as air force equipment issues, the Afghan National Security Council said in a Twitter post.

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“We are going to give them the helicopters, this is a one-off arrangement,” said an Indian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The supply of the assault helicopters will be the first offensive weapon to Afghanistan since India signed a strategic partnership agreement with Kabul in 2011 that riled old enemy Pakistan. It has donated light helicopters, vehicles and provided military training in the past.

An Afghan source confirmed the plan to induct Mi-25s from India, saying Kabul was looking to regional players to help it fight the Taliban.

“We are the ones who are fighting the Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Taliban, everyone else is only talking,” the source said. “But terrorism is everyone’s problem.”

Atmar will also be discussing a proposal to train Afghan Special Forces in counter insurgency schools in India, the Afghan source said, in addition to about 1,000 Afghan army officers who visit India for training each year.

Watched very closely

Pakistan’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the Afghan plan to obtain attack helicopters from India, saying it was a matter between those two countries. The military did not respond to a request for comment.

Pakistan, bordered by India to the east and Afghanistan to the west, has in the past frowned on Indian military assistance to Afghanistan, seeing it as part of a plan to undermine its stability from the rear. It has said New Delhi must limit itself to economic assistance.

“This kind of deal will definitely be watched very closely here and people will be concerned about this,” said Ejaz Haider, a Lahore-based security analyst.

“Because it will be seen as linking up with the steadily deteriorating relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Afghanistan has sought military hardware not only from India but also Russia directly. Earlier the United States had purchased smaller helicopters from Russia for its air force but that stopped after Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine.

“They (Afghan air force) have been going to many nations – it’s not just been to Russia. They’ve been going to everywhere they can trying to find what they can for that capability,” said Brigadier General Christopher Craige, commander of NATO’s air force training mission in Afghanistan.

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India had discussed ways to ship the Mi-25 helicopters to Afghanistan with the commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, another Indian source said.

New Delhi can’t fly the choppers to Kabul since they would have to go through Pakistan and so they would need to be taken apart and transported by plane. Campbell paid a rare visit to New Delhi in September but no details were released at the time.

New Delhi would also need Moscow to sign off on the transfer since the helicopters were bought from Russia, a Russian diplomat said.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Dubya
    Nov 6, 2015 - 10:00AM

    Who cares ….Recommend

  • sam
    Nov 6, 2015 - 10:10AM

    A very unnecessary move by Afghan govt. With Pakistan, China, Iran aligning together on CPEC, afghans should strategically try to remain neutral between Pakistan and India if not pro Pakistan/Iran. This will help them integrate with CPEC in future. 4 helicopters are not worth angering Pakistan… as observed as a neutral observor.Recommend

  • Strategic death
    Nov 6, 2015 - 10:11AM

    Instead of trying to control Afghan policies, Pak estb. should comes to the terms of a soverign afghan like it has been accepted by the entire world.

    Remember the Karma saying ‘What goes around, comes around’Recommend

  • Raisani
    Nov 6, 2015 - 10:15AM

    If it’s in hands of Afghan rulers they will declare Afghanistan as one of the Hindu states of India.Recommend

    Nov 6, 2015 - 10:17AM

    U.S. & Russia are behind this decision of Afghan due to their overt & covert influence there, as also both of them enjoys strong relations with India.Recommend

  • THE
    Nov 6, 2015 - 11:35AM

    I don’t really care about the heli-whatevers…. can we please send ALL of the Afghan refugees to their country now… I mean like TODAY !Recommend

  • Vectra
    Nov 6, 2015 - 11:49AM

    “Because it will be seen as linking up with the steadily deteriorating relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

    Why ask others to adjust with you when you can’t stop the deteriorating relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan which was itself created by you.When you cant manage relations the it is obvious others including India,US,Russia and EU nations will fill the vacuum as earlier UAE and Afganistan proves it.Recommend

  • Vectra
    Nov 6, 2015 - 11:58AM

    May be US and Russia do what you said but a nation of 1.2 billion is enough to command global influence in its own right as its PM shows who ranks in top 10 in 9th who has the power to influence the world.Recommend

  • Failed Fisherman
    Nov 6, 2015 - 12:10PM

    All American, Indian, Afghan, Iran and Russian games are for unrest in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Nov 6, 2015 - 12:17PM

    Every country is buying Arms they need from wherever they can get them. Afghanistan is facing violence by foreign funded proxies for decades and badly needs equipment to corner and defeat these proxies. Afghanistan is not a colony of some foreign power and does not need approval to acquire firepower and defeat its enemies. Those who claim to be friends of Afghanistan need to prove it.Recommend

  • Iran_moderna
    Nov 6, 2015 - 12:24PM

    My Pakistani for ends must realize that Afghanistan is a wasteland worth only the menace that it’s people generate. Pakistan should send back the millions of Afgans who eat of its tax system and close the trade route. They will come to their knees in days. Ungrateful nation. We in Iran don’t give them any importance. Recommend

  • John
    Nov 6, 2015 - 12:50PM

    You go Afghanistan,hope you at least get a squardon off them.You might want to check with Ecuador though.Ecuador had bought seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters from India,And recently grounded all such remaining choppers in service and has unilaterally ended a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.They had to take this decision after four of the seven Indian-built choppers crashed.Now 4 out of 7 down is not that bad a ratio or is it?Recommend

  • ajeet
    Nov 6, 2015 - 1:04PM

    Good that Afghanistan didn’t want to count itself along Pakistan and North Korea as one of the few Chinese allies.Recommend

  • JSM
    Nov 6, 2015 - 1:28PM

    Why should India bother about what Pakistan feels about India supplying MI25 gunships to Afghanistan. It suits Afghans, their pilots are trained to operate these gun-ships.Recommend

  • Romm
    Nov 6, 2015 - 1:49PM

    American Apache and Chinooks, F14, F15, F16 could not do anything substantial.
    By the way, Indian Helicopters Bought by
    Equador has been grounded and contract had been cancelled.Recommend

  • Arshad
    Nov 6, 2015 - 3:54PM

    Afghanistan arms deal with India is a dangerous development in the region. India is bend upon creating troubles for Pakistan, Iran, CAR, & China. They are going to use Afghan soil for this purpose. Let the strategist planners of these countries of these countries come together and thwart these Indian evil designs. It may not become too late.Recommend

  • rama
    Nov 6, 2015 - 4:10PM


    Pakistan ISI worries Recommend

  • Romm
    Nov 6, 2015 - 5:29PM

    Do you know what happened with MI-8 Russian Helicopters which were given to Najeeb administration???
    All landed in Peshawar …. We still have few displayed on different venues of Great city of PeshawarRecommend

  • Vectra
    Nov 6, 2015 - 7:03PM

    Equador cancellation of contract is premature,they themselves have accepted that out of 4 crashed helicopters 2 were crashed due to pilot error in which case they cant blame India and other 2 were crashed due to some technical fault in which case they can blame India but before blaming they at least should have contacted the HAL for failure cause but they haven’t done so.When these helicopters are performing very well in other nations like India,Israel,Mauritius,Nepal,Maldives etc then there was no reason to believe that 2 crash was due to poor equipments.Even US,Russian European helicopters also gets crashed.Do that mean their helicopter is of bad design.Recommend

  • curious2
    Nov 6, 2015 - 10:31PM

    If Russia gave/sold this helicopters to Afghanistan Pakistan would have no objection. Why does Pakistan have a problem if India does the same thing? Recommend

  • PAK FA
    Nov 6, 2015 - 11:25PM

    Good Question Next Please… Recommend

  • JSM
    Nov 7, 2015 - 7:15AM

    Therefore it is a good news for Pakistan. Why are they ‘riled’?Recommend

  • Nov 7, 2015 - 4:45PM

    what do you mean by insurgents???? is this author crazy or what?? afghan taliban are afghan nationals….60% afghan population is pro-taliban !!!! afghanistan does not need mi-25’s…what will they do with it? manage to move ttp terrorists in mi-25’s !!! manage to move isis terrorits??Recommend

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