Pentagon Helicopters Purchased from Syrian Enabler May Never Fly
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today denounced news that the Pentagon is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to purchase helicopters from a congressionally-barred Russian arms dealer that is fueling atrocities in Syria and then sending the aircraft to Afghanistan, where there are not enough troops with the expertise to fly them. The group notes that the irresponsible and wasteful Pentagon contracts will have lethal implications for the people of Syria and threaten U.S. national security interests.
“The U.S. contract with Rosoboronexport wastes taxpayer dollars and damages U.S. integrity,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “Foreign policy is a series of choices, and this one is short-sighted with bloody and tragic consequences for the people of Syria. It is in the national security interest of the United States to end the atrocities in Syria. These contracts undermine efforts to do so.”
Last year, Congress passed an amendment (section 1277) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13 NDAA) that expressly prohibited the use of U.S. funds to enter into any contracts or agreements with Rosoboronexport. The FY13 NDAA was enacted in January. In spite of the intent of the law, the U.S. Army has invoked a waiver authority and has entered into a new $1 billion contract with Rosoboronexport to procure helicopters and spare parts for the Afghan military.
Russia remains the top supplier of weapons to Syria and has provided the Assad regime with billions of dollars in arms. That relationship continues to this day. In May 2013, Human Rights First released a private letter from the Army Supply Bureau of the High Command of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) to Rosoboronexport. The letter appears to show new orders for rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, mortar rounds, ammunition and other goods the Syrian Army needs to carry out its ongoing operations against civilians.
“Assad’s regime relies on Rosoboronexport to carry out its deadly atrocities against the Syrian people. The Pentagon’s decision to award a massive contract to the very same company for helicopters that may never lift off the ground in Afghanistan is appalling,” observed Hameed. “If the United States is to be a leader in the effort to bring peace to Syria, it must start by getting its own house in order and cutting ties with Rosoboronexport.”
For more information, read Human Rights First’s recently released report The Enablers of the Syrian Conflict: How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria.