Defense

The US Military Now Has Troops In Ukraine To Track Billions Of Donated Weapons

Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

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The U.S. has troops on the ground conducting inspections and tracking the final destination of U.S.-provided weapons, a defense official confirmed Monday.

A contingent under the Defense attache and the Office of Defense Cooperation teams operating out of the embassy in Kyiv have initiated what are called “end-use” inspections to ensure some of the $17 billion in weapons the U.S. has provided to Ukraine are accounted for, the official, who spoke on a the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said at a press briefing Monday. The personnel monitor weapons stocks “whenever and wherever the security conditions allow” inside of Ukraine, far from the front lines where Ukrainian troops remain heavily reliant on U.S.-provided arms assistance.

“Instead, we see Ukraine’s frontline units effectively employing security assistance every day on the battlefield. Nonetheless, we are keenly aware of the possible risk of illicit diversion and are proactively taking all available steps to prevent this from happening,” the official said. (RELATED: State Department Releases Plan To Track Weapons In Ukraine — After Donating $17 Billion Of Them)

Ukrainian military leaders have cooperated with the U.S. representatives and upheld transparency in weapons distributions, the official stressed. However, the department’s “ability to execute normal monitoring procedures remains impacted by security conditions.”

Several inspections have already taken place, according to the official. The DOD has not identified any reliable instances of weapons diversion, a concern cited in the State Department plan to “counter illicit diversion of advanced conventional weapons” released on Friday.

“Pro-Russian forces’ capture of Ukrainian weapons ― including donated materiel ― has been the main vector of diversion so far and could result in onward transfers,” the plan read. However, other non-state actors could seek to confiscate U.S.-provided weapons and use them for illicit financial or criminal purposes.

The Department of Defense “over the past several months” has taken steps to update its security practices in support of the plan, the defense official said.

Those steps include tallying up inventories of U.S. weapons and support equipment shipped to transit hubs in Eastern Europe before they are ultimately transferred to Ukraine, and then logging and tracking the equipment “from the border logistics hubs to the front line,” the official said. Ukrainian troops keep a record of damage and expenditures.

DOD also provides hands-on training in data collection so Ukrainian forces can accurately account for weapons use on the front lines, where U.S. officials cannot go for security reasons.

The White House denied the presence of U.S. troops in Ukraine in March, saying the U.S. operated training missions in Poland after President Joe Biden appeared to suggest training missions were happening within Ukraine’s borders, according to Axios. Defense officials later made public ongoing training in Germany.

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