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Afghanistan Déjà vu in Ukraine: U.S. alarmed as Ukraine-bound weapons go missing

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KABUL – In a recent report by the U.S. Defense Department’s inspector general, alarming revelations have surfaced regarding the lack of oversight in distribution of Western weapons sent to Ukraine. Similar to the situation in Afghanistan, these weapons have reportedly fallen into the hands of Russian forces, criminal gangs, and other unauthorized actors, raising serious concerns about the security of military aid provided to Ukraine.

The report highlights several incidents where Ukraine’s security service successfully disrupted weapon-stealing plots. Among these were thwarted attempts by arms traffickers, Ukrainian criminals masquerading as members of a humanitarian aid organization, and a criminal group operating under an unnamed Russian official.

While the report does not explicitly confirm whether the stolen weapons were provided by the U.S., it points out that the Ukrainian government faced difficulties in conducting necessary End-Use Monitoring (EUM) of military equipment provided by the U.S. during fiscal year 2022. This failure to verify the equipment’s distribution to the Ukrainian military was attributed to the limited number of U.S. personnel allowed in the country and the movement restrictions imposed on them.

A critical concern raised in the report is the risk of the stolen equipment ending up on the black market or in the wrong hands, echoing the situation in Afghanistan during the chaotic withdrawal in August 2021, when the Taliban gained control of vast amounts of U.S. military equipment, worth over $7 billion.

Further inspection of other reports released after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reveals additional lapses in oversight over military assistance. One such report noted the Defense Department’s failure to conduct inventories of Enhanced End-Use Monitoring products before transferring them to Ukraine, potentially including missiles and night vision devices. Another report raised concerns about inadequate accountability controls, making it difficult to ensure the accurate and complete inventory of defense items transferred to Ukraine.

Despite the concerns surrounding the oversight of military aid, the Biden administration recently announced an additional $1.3 billion in aid to Ukraine. The United States has already allocated more than $42.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, significantly surpassing the combined contributions from all European Union nations. This aid includes thousands of military vehicles, over 300 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades, and millions of larger ammunition rounds.

As Ukraine continues to face security challenges amid ongoing conflicts, it remains imperative for the U.S. to address the issues of oversight and accountability to ensure that its military assistance reaches the intended recipients and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

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