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Arms Transfers

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Arms Transfer Working Group Panel Discussion on arms sales to India and Pakistan
Arms Transfer Working Group Letter to Congress on aid to Colombia and Indonesia
New Supplemental Bill Will Make the World Safe for Oil, but Not Safe for Us" by Tamar Gabelnick, Foreign Policy in Focus, 18 June 2002.
Security Assistance After September 11
: Foreign Policy in Focus
NGO Information Sheets on the FY2002 Emergency Supplemental Spending Request
FAS Letter to Congress - Letter opposing administration plans to lift export controls on India and Pakistan
ASMP Letter to Washington Post - Letter opposing administration plans to lift all export controls for 5 years
Arms Transfer Working Group Letter to Congress opposing arms sales waivers

U.S. Arms Sales Policy Related to Counter-Terrorism and 
Near East / South Asia


The "War on Terrorism" Security Assistance Tables
The "War on Terrorism" and Human Rights:
Aid to Abusers

State Dept. Human Rights Report on Afghanistan
U.S. Arms Embargoes in Effect 
Arms Export Control Act
Foreign Assistance Act
Anti-Terrorism Legislation

Shortly after the terrorist attacks, the Bush administration lifted those sanctions on Pakistan and India that had been imposed after both countries tested nuclear weapons.  Additional sanctions remained in place for Pakistan, as well as other countries the Bush Administration wanted to coax into playing a key role in the anti-terrorism coalition.  The administration therefore included in a draft anti-terrorism bill sent to Congress a provision that would have lifted all restrictions on military aid and arms transfers for the next five years in cases where doing so would help fight terrorism or other threats to international peace and security.  The provision also specifically lifted bans on counter-terrorism and non-proliferation aid for states with gross and consistent human rights abuses or a history of non-cooperation on counter-terrorism. After strong criticism from Congress and NGOs, the proposal was scaled back to a request to lift remaining sanctions on Pakistan for two years.

The Pakistan-only waiver was put into a separate bill (S. 1465, sponsored by Sen. Brownback), which became law on 27 October 2001. This law waives the military coup provision (no arms or aid to countries that have undergone a military coup until democracy is restored) from Foreign Operations Appropriations bills for FY 2002 and 2003; allows for greater flexibility on sanctions related to MTCR or Export Administration Act violations; and exempts Pakistan from restrictions on aid relating to loan defaults. It also shortens the congressional notification period for transfers of weapons from current U.S. stocks (drawdowns) from 15 to 5 days and transfers of excess U.S. weapons from 30 to 15 days for all countries if the transfers would respond to or prevent international acts of terrorism. In June 2003, the State Department formally ended the ban on arms transfers to India and Pakistan, announcing that henceforth all requests would be considered on a standard case-by-case basis.

Senator Brownback also sponsored an amendment to the FY02 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that would waive sanctions on Azerbaijan (Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act) in order to support U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.  The final version of the bill , which was approved by the House-Senate Conference Committee on December 19, includes a renewable one-year waiver with a proviso that military aid or arms cannot undermine the peace process with hostile neighbor Armenia. In March 2002, Congress made these temporary waivers permanent by amending the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). With this notice, Armenia and Azerbaijan were officially removed from a list of proscribed destinations for the exports and imports of defense articles and defense services

In response to the Philippines support for U.S. anti-terrorism efforts - including offers of use of bases, airspace, and law enforcement aid - the U.S. government offered $92.3 million worth of excess military equipment, including a C-130 transport plane, 8 UH-1H utility helicopters, a naval patrol boat, and 30,000 M-16 rifles plus ammunition.  The aid is also intended to help Manila fight its various insurgencies, including the Abu Sayyef, which has allegedly had ties to Al Qaeda.  U.S. Special Operations Forces are also providing on-site training for Filipino soldiers fighting the Abu Sayyef. The Bush administration has also reportedly offered excess defense articles (EDA) to Turkey in the name of combating terrorism in all its forms (i.e., counter-insurgency).

Georgia is the most recent recipient of U.S. weapons and aid, receiving 10 UH-1H Huey helicopters (four for spare parts only) and $64 million in military aid and training to fight Arab soldiers with alleged ties to Al Qaeda that have been participating in the Chechen war and are now taking refuge in the Pankisi Gorge region in northern Georgia. Like many of the recent aid recipients, claims that Georgia has become an al Qaeda sanctuary are dubious at best. Even the Georgian Defense Minister, whose troops stand to benefit handsomely from the alleged al Qaeda presence in his country, has publically challenged the Bush administration's claims. "For me personally, it is very difficult to believe in that [al Qaeda is in the Gorge]," commented Tevzadze, "because to come from Afghanistan to that part of Georgia, they need to [cross] at least six or seven countries, including [the] Caspian Sea... No, al Qaeda influence can't be in the country." [1] 

Also in the name of helping other states fight terrorism, the State Department announced on January 9, 2002, that Tajikistan - which has been cooperating with the U.S. counter-terrorism efforts - was removed from the ITAR list of states prohibited from receiving U.S. military goods and services.  The State Department is also planning to begin combat and weapons training for Kenyan soldiers as part of the African Crisis Response Initiative, which had previously been limited to non-lethal peacekeeping training.  The shift in training could help clear the way for U.S. forces to use Kenyan bases in an eventual attack on terrorist camps in Somalia. President Bush's March 21, 2002 Emergency Supplemental Budget Request includes greatly increased levels of foreign military financing for Kenya, as well as Djibouti and Ethiopia, the three countries which share borders with Somalia.

This Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Request also includes a $50 million request under the Foreign Military Financing Program for Afghanistan, and contains provisions for the arming and training of an Afghan army. The $373 million Foreign Military Financing request for "the fight against terrorism" also names Pakistan, Nepal, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Georgia, the Philippines, Colombia and Ecuador as intended recipients of U.S. military equipment and aid.

In one demonstration of restraint, the State Department decided to suspend the export of long-range .50 caliber sniper rifles to individuals or commercial dealers because of the special risk they pose to U.S. security.  The State Department seemed to be responding to a request from Rep. Henry Hyde, ranking minority member on the House Committee on Governmental Reform, and a report from the Violence Policy Center  showing that U.S. arms makers had previously transferred these high-powered weapons to foreign terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. These weapons can shoot accurately from almost 2,000 yards, and can take down aircraft and pierce armored vehicles.  The State Department had already approved the export of 75 such weapons this year, though only 16 had already been delivered before the decision to suspend further exports.

Related Documents

Executive Branch:


Detailed Data on Arms Transfers to Near East / South Asia


Past U.S. Arms and Military Aid to Afghanistan

During the 1980s, in an effort to topple the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan, the U.S. government provided at least $2 billion worth of arms and military training to Islamic rebel groups, known collectively as the Mujahideen.  Among the weapons the U.S. government sent or had delivered to the Mujahideen were Soviet-origin SA-7 Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs), FIM-92 Stinger SAMs, AK-47 assault rifles, and other small arms and light weapons.  U.S.-origin SAMs were reportedly sent over the objections of the CIA, which feared for the safety of the weapons and the precedent this type of transfer would set.  Congress did approve the transfer of a limited number of Stingers in 1985. [2]  In the end, about 1,000 Stingers were transferred, of which several hundred are still at large.  Suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was apparently able to procure a number of SA-7 SAMs and Stingers, which he could use to target civilian aircraft in future acts of terror. [3] The CIA allocated $55 million in the 1990s to try to purchase the Stingers back off the black market, with limited success.  The Violence Policy Center also documented the sale of 25 Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifles sold to Al Qaeda from the U.S. in the 1980s.  With the proper ammunition, these powerful weapons can accurately hit and destroy targets - including armored personnel carriers and helicopters - up to 2000 yards away. 

In order to avoid direct connections with unsavory Afghani groups, the CIA primarily funneled arms and money through Pakistan Army. s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).  The ISI ended up pilfering large quantities of the weapons and directing the rest to groups of its own choosing.  The ISI gave arms to groups it considered less threatening to Pakistan, which turned out to be some of the most radical Islamic factions, which were as hostile to the West as they were to the Soviets.  U.S.-funded military training camps in Pakistan also took in radicals from other Muslim countries looking to wage a holy war against the Soviets and the West.  Osama bin Laden helped create housing for the multitude of foreign fighters, naming the camp and ultimately his group of followers . The Base," or Al-Qaeda.  

After the Soviets left in 1989, they left a government in place that the Mujahideen finally forced out in 1992.  The Mujahideen groups then began fighting amongst themselves.  The Taliban - made up of religious students educated in Pakistan and former Mujahideen soldiers and led by former Mujahideen Maulana Mohammad Omar - emerged as a military and political group in 1994 and took over Kabul in 1996.  They are now armed with weapons left by the Soviets, weapons left over from the U.S. arms pipeline of the 1980s, and arms recently sent by Pakistan, which has leftover stores from the 1980s and acquires other items on the international black market.  Pakistan has allegedly continued to provide the Taliban weapons in violation of the UN arms embargo put in place in December 2000. [4]  Pakistan has also apparently sent CIA-provided weaponry to militants fighting Indian forces in Kashmir. [5] 

More on U.S. arms transfers:

More on Taliban, their weapons, and weapons sources:

More on human rights in Afghanistan:

[1] Nathan Hodge, U.S. Trainers Pledge Strict Accountability in Georgia," Defense Week, 3 June 2002, p. 1.

[2] Lucy Mathiak and Lora Lumpe, . Government Gun-Running to Guerrillas,. in Running Guns, Lora Lumpe, ed. (New York:  2000), pp. 55-80.

[3] Thomas B. Hunter, . The Proliferation of MANPADS, Jane's Intelligence Review, September 2001, p. 43.

Maintained by Matt Schroeder