New brass for old


“New brass for old” was the saying of the thief as he tried to get the old dirty lamp from the young lady that had the genie inside it.

As Barack Obama pulls US out of the Afghanistan war, the deal was to leave behind a number of helicopters for the Afghan forces to continue the fight against the Taliban. It turns out that the United States has signed a contract for more than $1 billion to buy Russian helicopters from Russia to leave behind in Afghanistan. The Pentagon bypassed US companies, turning to the Russian MI- 17, assuring the Congress in a top-secret 2010 study that the MI-17 was a superior choice.

It turns out now, only now two years after the contract has been signed, the Associated Press has gotten a leak of excerpts of that study. The excerpts leaked, indicate that according to the study, it did not choose the MI-17 as the superior choice, but actually chose the American-made helicopter the U.S. Army’s workhorse Chinook built by Boeing in Pennsylvania. It was found, according to the study that was cited to support the Russian purchase, it was found to be “the most cost-effective single platform type fleet for the Afghan Air Force over 20 year period.”


According to Texas Senator John Cornyn, he was critical of the contract in the first place. Even if it were superior why are we spending a billion dollars in Russian for a helicopter during a recession? Borrowing money from the Chinese, to buy helicopters from the Russians, to create jobs in Russia, rather than the United States. And the Afghans will run and leave behind the equipment, that will probably be run by the Taliban within the year.

According to John Cornyn the Congress cannot even get a copy of the whole contract, much less the entire study. As recently as last September, the Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was citing the study to defend the purchase of the MI-17. The Army Secretary John McHugh in 2011 said “the MI-17 stands apart” when compared with other helicopters. The Pentagon of course, now with a straight face denies that it mislead Congress. A senior department official said today the study was focused only on long-term requirements, not on the immediate needs. So the immediate needs are for the MI-17.

In other words, the study they were citing for all those years, was really not the study they were relying on, it was their own impression and opinion. Now it’s true that these Afghan forces, after all those years of the Russians being there in Afghanistan, had some experience with this helicopter. It’s also true that many of them could fly the American helicopters, which have been operating there for 11 years now.

Who made the decision to spend $1 billion we didn’t have, and had to borrow, to buy Russian helicopters, to equip an Afghan Army who to frequently seems to shoot and kill American soldiers and Marines trying to train them to resist the Taliban.



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