(Alternet) A government watchdog criticized the Pentagon on Friday for forging ahead with controversial helicopter purchases from a Russian arms dealer despite warnings the Afghan special forces unit due to receive the aircraft could not fly or maintain them.

The watchdog – the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction – urged the Pentagon to suspend the $553 million Russian arms deal as well as a $218 million contract for 18 planes from a U.S. firm until plans were in place to fully recruit and train the Afghan special forces unit.

The Pentagon was already under fire for agreeing this month to buy 30 additional Mi-17 helicopters from the Russian arms dealer, Rosoboronexport. That company is a major supplier of weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is battling rebels trying to overthrow his government.

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