President Ashraf Ghani has said the Mi-25 gunship helicopters supplied by India prevented a further deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan as they had played a key role in air support operations.
Addressing a joint conference of the leadership of security institutions in Kabul on Tuesday, Ghani was quoted by Khaama Press as saying, “The situation could further deteriorate if the Mi-25s supplied by India would not arrive on time.”
Ghani hailed the efforts of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in providing air support to ground forces during the ongoing fighting season. “We were forced to use Mi-17 transport helicopters as gunships during the last Afghan fiscal year,” he said.
The AAF was re-established during the ongoing fiscal year and this led to an Afghan-owned decision about providing air support to ground forces, he said.
India set aside a long-standing policy of providing only non-lethal military equipment to Afghanistan last year when it agreed to provide four Mi-25 attack helicopters. The AAF received three of the helicopters in late December last year, coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kabul.
The fourth helicopter is currently being prepared for delivery to the AAF. “The fourth helicopter is yet to be transferred. It needs spares before it can be made fully operational and the spares have to come from Russia,” a diplomatic source was quoted as saying by Khaama.
An unnamed defence official said: “There was an issue with the spares. It is being sorted out. It should be delivered very soon.”
Reports from Afghanistan have suggested that the Mi-25s have played a key role in the offensive against the Taliban and other jihadi groups. Air support plays a key role in operations by Afghan ground forces, especially in targeting militant positions, troop deployment and casualty evacuation.
During Tuesday’s conference, which was attended by the commander of NATO forces, the defence minister, interior minister and the head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Ghani said Afghan security institutions should remain “target oriented” for the upcoming fiscal as they had gone through “a year of survival” and are in the process of “national mobilisation to defend”.
Ghani, however, cautioned that the coming months will be the “toughest yet” for the security forces. “We need full preparation because the current war situation has changed from an undeclared war to a declared war,” he said, according to Tolo News.
He called for greater cooperation and coordination between security forces and foreign troops. He described the “high number of military casualties” as a big challenge.
Ghani also spoke of other problems faced by the Afghan forces, such as a lack of supplies.
“I really felt shame when I heard that our security forces went for 15 or 20 days with only rice or only bread. What are our intelligence services doing?...I want solutions to these complaints. It is not a request but an order and it must be implemented,” he said.