As part of Afghanistan’s four-year road map to double its 17,000-strong special forces unit and bolster the Afghan Air Force, the U.S. plans to provide Afghanistan with up to 159 refurbished UH-60A Black Hawks to replace its aging fleet of Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters, according to Afghan and U.S. defense officials.
Ahmad Shah Katawazai, defense liaison and security expert at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., told Military Times that the addition of Black Hawks to the Afghan fleet is vital for giving the security forces leverage needed to end the stalemate.
“We are in the midst of an insurgency where the enemy is getting tacit support from neighboring countries. Our security forces are under immense pressure as they are fighting each day, on several fronts, with more than 20 terrorist organizations.”
The development comes after Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, saying more U.S. troops were needed to help break the "stalemate" against terrorists groups fighting there. The Trump administration is evaluating how many additional personnel it may deploy.
There is $814 million designated this year to bolster Afghanistan’s air force, including enough funding for 53 of the 159 Black Hawks, a defense official told Military Times. Each year, the Defense Department will have to request additional funding for the remainder. Officials expect to deliver 30 a year. The first delivery is expected in about 21 months. (end of excerpt)
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