>> A major weapon in Afghanistan's battle with the Taliban, tangled in a geopolitical mess. The country's Russian made helicopters provide critical air support, but years of heavy fighting and harsh condition have taken a toll. Now the US military wants to send up to 159 American Black Hawk choppers to Afghanistan to replace them.
And as Josh Smith reports from Kabul, that decision's down to more than just the state of Russian fleet.>> This decision to move away from Russian helicopters, if it goes through has less to do with any kind of technical specifications and much more to do with politics, namely the relationship right now between the United States and Russia.
Amid deteriorating relations between Russia and the United States over the conflict in Syria, as well as Ukraine, the United States increasingly faced legal barriers to providing both new parts and new helicopters to the Afghans if they came from Russia.>> President Obama has put formal restrictions on doing business with Russian arms manufacturers, making it seem more likely that the Black Hawk plan could go through.
But a major change in Washington may yet throw a wrench in the works.>> Now that the Defense Department has made this decision to move away from the Russian helicopters in favor of American Black Hawks, that decision is now potentially in doubt with the election of President Donald Trump.
Donald Trump has signalled a willingness to improve relations with Russia.>> Some analysts say with Trump in power, Russian helicopters could remain the backbone of the Afghan army, although sending over American choppers would play into his pledge to protect manufacturing jobs at home. That's certainly the line the Pentagon hopes he'll end up taking, they want to start deploying the Black Hawks in Afghanistan within two years of approval from Congress.