Lavrov Concerned over U.S. Plans to Keep Afghan Bases

Russia’s foreign minister expressed concerns on Thursday over U.S. plans to keep its military contingent in Afghanistan after the pullout of international troops in 2014.

At the same time, minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was worried about the drug and terrorism situation in Afghanistan after the pullout.

“We … do not understand such [U.S.] plans to maintain a presence …, we have questions and we would like to get answers,” Lavrov told a news conference following the foreign ministerial meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels.

He said the international contingent stayed in Afghanistan under a UN Security Council mandate.

“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,” he said. “But when the UN Security Council mandate expires, there will be no reason for a foreign presence in Afghanistan and the region.”

The minister also expressed concerns about the persisting threat of terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately despite all the international efforts, the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan persists,” the minister said. Russia “is concerned how things are going to develop after the International Security Assistance Force is pulled out of Afghanistan.”

According to Russia’s federal drug control watchdog, heroin production in Afghanistan rose 40-fold in the past decade, and opium poppy plantations cover 130,000 hectares in the Central Asian country.

The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs said the Taliban made $150 million from drug production annually and total drug profits amounted to $4 billion.

Russia’s relations with Afghanistan have been complex over the Taliban’s support for separatists in Chechnya.


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