by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) June 15, 2012
The US military is in talks with several Central Asian countries to transfer some of their military hardware to them after they pull out of Afghanistan, a Russian newspaper reported Friday.
The report, in Kommersant newspaper, provoked an angry response from one Russian official.
The military of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan were in "closed talks" with the Pentagon about receiving armoured vehicles, tank trailers, and other specialised equipment, Kommersant reported.
Some of it would be handed over for free while other items would be for safe storage, the report said, citing sources close to, or inside the various respective armies.
A source in Kyrgyzstan's military confirmed that the issue had first been raised in March when the US and Kyrgyz defence ministers met.
But a Russian diplomatic source told the paper that holding such talks behind Moscow's back was "absolutely unacceptable".
The source cited the countries' commitments to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which stipulates a security alliance with Russia.
Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are former Soviet states and Russia's allies in Central Asia.
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan share a border with Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan is home to a US military facility that has been a contentious issue for Russia's conservatives.
The US and NATO have agreed to pull military forces out of Afghanistan in 2014.
Russia's Central Asian partners have played an increasing role in their efforts to get equipment into Afghanistan after Pakistan closed supply routes from the south.
But the northern routes are much longer and more expensive than the roads through Pakistan.
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