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BRUSSELS, April 2 (Itar-Tass) —— A centre for training helicopter maintenance personnel for the Afghan army will open in Russia in April, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
The centre will be funded by the Russia-NATO Council Trust Fund and it will allow the Afghan army to fly them and keep them in order as the national security forces take over from NATO, he said on Monday, April 2.
Launched on 2 March 2011, the NRC Trust Fund is managed in accordance with established policy and under the overall supervision of the NRC Preparatory Committee, with Germany acting as the Lead Nation. The NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA), as Executing Agent, is responsible for all aspects of executive management. Russia, Denmark, Luxemburg and Turkey have already contributed to the project, which amounts to a total of 5 million USD.
Operations in remote, hard-to-reach areas of Afghanistan rely heavily on helicopter support for the safe movement of troops and supplies. Created in 2008, the Afghan Air Force currently numbers more than 4,000 personnel and 56 aircraft, including 35 Mi-17 and 9 Mi-35 helicopters. It is on its way to becoming a professional, operationally capable and sustainable force of 140 aircraft and more than 8,000 personnel by 2016. Now, that goal looks closer than ever thanks to the Trust Fund. The Fund provides a vitally-needed maintenance and repair capacity, including the provision of spare parts and technician training, to the Afghan Air Force helicopter fleet.
Airlift and air power are essential elements of the Afghan counterinsurgency. Combined helicopter gunship and light fixed attack capability allows Afghan security forces to launch largely independent operations. The Afghan Air Force has also established an airborne medical evacuation capability, providing specialised emergency medical care in remote areas. In addition, search and rescue operations allow life-saving help to reach victims of natural disasters, such as following the Salang Pass avalanche and during recent floods in Kandahar. Meanwhile, the airlift of government leaders into remote provinces provides a valuable link to rural communities while giving the population a chance to have their voices heard.
The NRC Trust Fund on Helicopter Maintenance is not only another important step towards expanding Afghan ownership of security responsibility; it is also a clear sign of Russia and NATO’s joint commitment to increased stability in Afghanistan, NATO said.