In both cases, the helicopters will be bought and paid for by the United States, but delivered by Russia to the Afghanistan Armed Forces. The original contract included an option for additional helicopters, which has been exercised.
The additional purchases of Mi-17 helicopters from Russia occur despite opposition to Russian arms purchases by the US Congress, because of continued Russian support to Syria.
However, the US Department of Defense felt that is was best to honor Afghanistan request for the Mi-17 helicopters. Compared to other options such as the American Black Hawk helicopters, the Mi-17 is a better fit, including:
- The ability to use existing infrastructure, support and service already in place for Russian helicopters.
- Familiarity of Afghan pilots with the Mi-17 eliminates the need to train them to use a new helicopter type.
- The Mi-17 helicopters are lower in cost.
The Mi-17 helicopters are meant to help Afghanistan fulfill its tasks now that military forces from the US and other countries are in the process of being withdrawn.
Further negotiations may result in additional purchases of the Mi-17, which is widely used around the world and noted for its ruggedness and reliability, despite being a very old design.
This is not the first time that the US has bought military equipment from Russia, but the purchases of Mi-17 helicopters are still notable since they don't occur very often between the two former rivals during the Cold War.