Damascus (GPA) – A new report details the Pentagon’s arms pipeline to Syria and the estimated price tag on these weapons for years to come.
This Tuesday, a joint report by Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) was released that exposes several troubling Pentagon policies. While many people thought the ending of the CIA program signaled a significant change in US Syria policy, it now seems the Pentagon has supercharged their efforts in the country.
Who’s Receiving Weapons?
The report details the extension of the policy enacted by the Pentagon in late 2014/early 2015 after choosing to abandon their totally failed program of directly training. Instead of this option, the Pentagon then began supplying weapons to existing rebel groups they claim were “vetted.”
While the weapons purchased by the US primarily go to the notorious Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and other Kurdish led groups, there seem to be some parts of this report that question who else receives arms.
The first aspect that doesn’t help the government’s case is how secretive the Pentagon seems to be about where these weapons are going. This is the result of a reporting system that allows the Pentagon not to record the “end-user” of weapons shipments, but instead to just supply any group the west “appears security support” to.
According to the Pentagon, the “end-user” of some these Eastern European arms is actually the US military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM); a group that would have no use for a bunch of cheap Kalashnikovs and RPGs. Other shipments – including one purchase worth $480 million – don’t even have intended recipients listed.
This part of the new Pentagon rules leaves a lot of weapons in the hands of groups of which even the Pentagon can’t truly know the composition. According to several legal professionals and NGO workers quoted in the report, moves like this could easily wander into illegal territory as far as international law is concerned.
Billions Budgeted for Arms (for Years to Come)
Another disturbing aspect of this report is the details of how much money the US Department of Defense has poured into this program. From the start of this new program up until May of this year, the Pentagon has allegedly spent $700 million just for the purchase and transport of small arms.
However, the worst part about this spending is the fact that it doesn’t seem to be waning at all. In fact, it appears that the DoD not only is ok with the money already spent but plans to continue funneling the weapons for at least several more years.
The plans laid out in the report showed this attitude when it was revealed that the Pentagon has projected budget for these transactions slated to continue until at least 2022. Between the Pentagon and the White House, there has already been an additional $412 million set aside for more weapons.
With previous spending and the predictions for spending through 2022, it seems the total price tag for arming these groups in Syria will be somewhere in the ballpark of $2.2 billion. This is also in addition to other arms supply networks run by US allies; such as Saudi Arabia’s weapons program valued around $1.4 million.
If the current end year for this project strikes you as ambitious, we should remember that, for all intents and purposes, the war in Syria should be coming to a close. Yet it seems the Pentagon has other long-term plans that may be even more disruptive to Syria, especially since the US hasn’t even spent half of that projected 2 billion yet.
Arms Suppliers and the Covert US Supply Line
Several other issues revealed by this report also shed light on where exactly the US purchases these cheap soviet style weapons and how they get to Syria.
The red flags around these arms shipments don’t just start going up once the guns arrive in Syria. Starting at the very origins of this supply chain there seem to be some troubling details surrounding the initial weapons manufacturers and suppliers.
These weapons are primarily purchased across Eastern Europe’s former Soviet states. According to the report, this list of nations is made up of many notoriously corrupt countries in Europe and Central Asia, including the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and now Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and Croatia.
The US demand for these weapons has apparently been so high that many of these countries are running out of stockpiles, selling older weapons than usually acceptable, or just expanding manufacturing operations in this time of booming sales. Several contractors have even maintained the Pentagon as a client after doing things like selling faulty arms or having known connections to organized crime.
To make all this worse, it was also recently exposed that the US isn’t just breaking international law but is also violating other nations’ laws at a local level. This includes list even includes allied countries.
One US ally who was a victim of these illegal schemes was Germany. Large shipments of weapons reportedly passed through the US-operated Ramstein Air Force base. The shipments were never disclosed to the German government which makes the move a violation of the country’s laws and has sparked recent protests.
Now obviously this is all very disturbing, and as mentioned above, the whole “vetted moderate rebels” scheme has been an almost total failure (SDF operations excluded). The war in Syria is almost over, with Syrian forces now back in control of over 85% of the country but the Pentagon is seemingly just getting started.
With budgets projected for at least another five years, we should be concerned with and paying close attention to every statement from Washington about Syria; because as of now, the plan for after the defeat of Daesh seems even more mysterious. When Daesh is gone, and most US-backed rebel groups will presumably begin to collapse, what will happen to these billions of dollars worth of weapons?
Also published on Medium.