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U.S. To Stop Buying Russian Helicopters For Afghanistan

A Russian made Mi-17 helicopter operated by the Afghan National Civil Order Police flies over Kabul. (file photo)
The United States will not buy any more helicopters from a Russian exporter that also supplies weapons to the Syrian government.

The Defense Department was set to purchase 15 Mi-17s for $345 million from Rosoboronexport and then deliver them to Afghanistan's national security forces.

But on November 13, the Defense Department said it was cancelling those plans, although it did not offer a reason.

Republican Senator John Cornyn said in a statement on November 13 that he applauds the Defense Department's decision to stop doing business with Rosoboronexport.

Analysts say opposition amongst U.S. lawmakers to the deal has been growing.

Members of the two main U.S. political parties objected to acquiring military gear from the same Russian agency that is providing Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime with arms and ammunition.

Top U.S. military officials, however, say the Russian-made helicopters are ideally suited for the Afghans, who are rebuilding their air force and need a reliable and easy-to-operate helicopter.

Overall, the Defense Department has paid more than $1 billion since 2011 for 63 Mi-17s that have been delivered to Afghanistan or are on order.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters