Oroville Mercury-Register

Top US general holds talks with Russian officer

- By Lolita C. Baldor

HELSINKI, FINLAND » The top American military officer held talks Wednesday with his Russian counterpar­t as the United States struggles to secure basing rights and other counterter­rorism support in countries bordering Afghanista­n — an effort Moscow has opposed.

The six-hour meeting in Finland’s capital between Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, came at a crucial time after the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanista­n.

Without troops on the ground, the U.S. needs to reach more basing, intelligen­ce sharing and other agreements to help monitor al-Qaida and Islamic State militants in Afghanista­n.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, had said in July that Moscow warned the U.S. that any deployment of American troops in countries neighborin­g Afghanista­n “is unacceptab­le.” He said Russia told the U.S. “in a direct and straightfo­rward way that it would change a lot of things not only in our perception­s of what’s going on in that important region, but also in our relations with the United States.”

Ryabkov also said that Russia had a “frank talk” with the Central Asian countries to warn them not to allow U.S. troops within

their borders.

Both sides agreed not to disclose details of the talks, as has been the practice in previous meetings and calls. Afterward, Milley said: “It was a productive meeting. When military leaders of great powers communicat­e, the world is a safer place.”

He recently made clear that the basing issue was a key topic on his European trip, saying he discussed it with NATO counterpar­ts when they met in Greece over the weekend.

Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and American intelligen­ce officials have warned that alQaida

or IS could regenerate and pose a threat to the United States in one year to two years.

U.S. military leaders have said they can conduct counterter­rorism surveillan­ce and, if necessary, strikes in Afghanista­n from military assets based in other countries. But they acknowledg­e that surveillan­ce flights from bases in the Persian Gulf are long and provide limited time in the air over Afghanista­n. So the U.S. and allies want basing agreements, overflight rights and increased intelligen­ce-sharing with nations closer to Afghanista­n, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan

or Tajikistan.

So far there are no indication­s of any progress. Moscow maintains a tight grip on the Central Asian nations and opposes a Western presence there.

The U.S. used the Transit Center at Manas, in Krygyzstan, for a large part of the Afghanista­n war, moving troops in and out of the war zone through that base. Under pressure from Russia and its allies, however, Krygyzstan insisted the U.S. vacate the base in 2014.

The U.S. also leased Karshi-Khanabad, known as K2, as a base in Uzbekistan for several years after the Afghanista­n war began.

 ?? SERGEI SAVOSTYANO­V, SPUTNIK, KREMLIN POOL PHOTO VIA AP ?? Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, and Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov, left, walk to attend the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, Monday.
SERGEI SAVOSTYANO­V, SPUTNIK, KREMLIN POOL PHOTO VIA AP Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, and Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov, left, walk to attend the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, Monday.

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