By Catherine Putz, The Diplomat, 24 February 2016
Wednesday, Afghanistan accepted a gift of 10,000 AK-47s and millions of rounds of ammunition from Russia. In recent months there has been much discussion about increased Russian engagement with Afghanistan, although Moscow’s cooperation with Washington’s initiatives–such as peace talks with the Taliban–remains seemingly out of the question.
Speaking at a ceremony to accept the weapons gift, Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmarsaid: “This important donation is from an important friend of Afghanistan in a crucial time for Afghanistan and the region.”
Twenty-seven years ago this month, the final Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan, where they’d been fighting a war for a decade. The communist government of Muhammad Najibullah, which they left in Kabul held out for three more years until the collapse of the Soviet Union cut off the financial inflow from Moscow, estimated at $3-4 billion annually, and the mujahedin closed in.
“Terrorism is our common enemy,” Atmarsaid at the handover.
Last year, hopeful beginnings to peace talks with the Taliban led to deep disappointment as the revelation of Mullah Omar’s death two years ago tossed the insurgency into a degree of internal chaos and damaged the Afghan administration’s efforts to repair relations with Pakistan. In 2016, however, the peace process is again being given a try, although most regional observers are skeptical that the planned talks will accomplish much.