News broke recently that the Pentagon is buying $553 million worth of Mi-17 helicopters from the Russian state arms dealer Rosoboronexport.
Rosoboronrexport happens to be Syria’s top arms supplier and has provided the Assad regime with billions of dollars worth of arms that slaughtered tens of thousands of Syrians.
The Pentagon says that this purchase is to equip Afghan forces with the helicopters they need to aid in counterterrorism efforts. But the Afghan forces are not ready to operate Mi-17. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reports that Afghan forces aren’t sufficiently trained to fly or fix them. Moreover, they already have twenty of these helicopters, which would be prematurely retired with the purchase of thirty new ones.
Despite recommendations by SIGAR to suspend the sale, the Pentagon isn’t budging.
Congress, in the 2013 defense budget bill, blocked purchases from Rosoboronexport because of its ties with the Assad regime. The Pentagon bought anyway, using budget allocations from the 2012 bill.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Monday, a bipartisan group of nine U.S. Senators led by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged him to cancel this contract with Syria’s top arms supplier, Rosoboronexport. The letter states:
While we share the goal of providing the Afghan military with sustainable anti-narcotics and counterterrorism operations, the SIGAR has rightfully acknowledged that this program simply does not achieve this goal. Rather, it saddles the Afghan military with a fleet of helicopters they can neither operate nor afford to maintain and provides U.S. tax dollars to a Russian state-controlled arms export firm that is complicit in Assad’s murder of innocent Syrians.
Human Rights First joins this bipartisan group of Senators in calling for the cancelation of U.S. Contract with Rosoboronexport. Join our call!