Singapore: The international community needs to start providing more economic and social assistance to Afghanistan to ensure the nation can function on its own, Russia`s Deputy Prime Minister said on Sunday.
Sergei Ivanov told a regional security conference in Singapore that foreign donors should help Afghanistan get back on its feet in addition to sending troops to keep the peace against a threat from the Islamist Taliban.
"One thing is clear, a lot should be done in just starting very primitive social economic life in Afghanistan. If we don`t do that, any military presence will be in vain," Ivanov told the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Devastated by 30 years of conflict, Afghanistan`s economy, ranked 181st of 182 by United Nations, is dependent on foreign aid, which accounts for 70 percent of the government`s budget.
On Saturday, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said more trainers were needed for Afghanistan`s security forces and British troops would pull out only once they had achieved their mission.
There are nearly 140,000 foreign troops from 42 countries working under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The United States has by far the most, with about 80,000, rising to 100,000 by the end of this year.
"Next year I think the ISAF will break the Soviet record in the duration of the stay in Afghanistan," Ivanov said.
He reiterated that Russia would never again send troops to Afghanistan. Moscow has painful memories of the losses suffered during two decades of Soviet involvement, starting from 1979.
"We are already helping a lot in ISAF operations in Afghanistan providing logistic support, transport support, intelligence support. Except for one thing -- never again will a Russian soldier enter Afghanistan," he said.
"I think you understand why. It is just like asking the US whether they will send troops to Vietnam, something like that is totally impossible."