As the United States continues to flood the Middle East with weapons—with a booming arms trade and “aid packages” delivered to unstable regimes as well as so-called moderate rebel groups—Pentagon officials have confirmed that a cache of U.S. weapons sent to the Yemeni government have vanished.
As the Guardian first reported in early February, after Shiite Houthi rebels overthrew the Yemeni government, the group gained control of many of the military’s arms depots and bases.
Pressed by members of Congress in closed-door meetings for an accounting of the arms and other heavy weaponry sent to the Yemen military by the United States, officials confirmed that the U.S. military has lost track of the weapons stockpile.
“We have to assume it’s completely compromised and gone,” an unnamed legislative aide told the Washington Post.
An unnamed defense official also said that while there was “no hard evidence that U.S. arms or equipment had been looted or confiscated,” the official “acknowledged that the Pentagon had lost track of the items,” the Post reported.
The Yemen Interior Ministry has received $500 million in “counterterrorism aid” from the United States since 2007. And since 2010, the U.S. has delivered the following munitions, aircraft and other military equipment to that country: 1,250,000 rounds of ammunition, 200 Glock 9mm pistols 200 M-4 rifles, 300 sets of night-vision goggles, 250 suits of body armor, 160 Humvees, 4 Huey II helicopters, 4 hand-launched Raven drones, 2 Cessna 208 transport and surveillance aircraft, 1 CN-235 transport and surveillance aircraft, and 2 coastal patrol boats.
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While the Houthis have maintained control over many of the Yemeni military bases in the northern part of the country, other sites were reportedly seized by fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—fueling additional concern and speculation that both groups may have gained control of the U.S.-provided arms.
More than embarrassing, the weapons gaffe in Yemen highlights how problematic the U.S. strategy in the Middle East really is.
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