by Jim Lobe

I know this is a little off-topic from our usual Middle East focus, but I wanted to point out a new resource for those of you interested in US security and military assistance to countries around the world. Unfortunately, a lot of that information is very difficult to find, and it’s rarely aggregated in a way that makes it possible for researchers or interested citizens to understand how much assistance is going to X country via how many different programs. The Pentagon, which has a lot of shopping-around money, has been particularly tardy in providing information about the many aid programs it runs and is required to report to Congress.

However, dogged researchers at the Center for International Policy (CIP), with the help of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Latin American Working Group (LAWG), and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), have put together in one interactive website as much of the unclassified data as can be legally gathered. The site launched last month at the Open Society Institute (OSI), which also funded the initiative.

The project was born out of the Just the Facts project, which first documented US security assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean in the mid-1990s. The project became an invaluable resource for Congressional staffers worried about the imbalance between security and development assistance in the region. The Security Assistance Monitor project covers a broader geographical area and includes both State Department-funded, and, to the greatest extent possible, Pentagon-funded programs from 2000 to the present. Of course, given their classified nature it doesn’t include CIA or other intelligence programs.

“Over the past decade, the US government has greatly expanded its investment in security assistance and its involvement in the security sectors of other countries, but where are the dollars going; what is the effect on the security of the recipient; and is it buying us relationships that are big trouble downstream,” asked Gordon Adams, a former senior Clinton administration defence budget official who teaches at American University, in remarks prepared for the website launch.

“As we give more and more responsibility to the Pentagon, we don’t know the answers to these questions,” he said. “Accountability starts with transparency, the Security Assistance Monitor is a big step forward in filling that hole in our knowledge.”

The website, for example, doesn’t explain the effectiveness of US security assistance to Yemen, whose capital Sana’a essentially fell last month to the Houthi insurgency from North Yemen, virtually without a shot fired. The latest reporting indicates that the Yemeni armed forces, to the extent they remain coherent, are now under Houthi direction. But what you can, among other things, find out from the new site is that the ratio of equipment to training provided to Yemen under the Pentagon’s controversial 1206 program during fiscal 2013 was nearly 100:1. The Yemenis received $45.4 million dollars in weapons and related equipment versus $565,000 in training—a ratio that may help explain the Yemeni military’s rather poor performance.

You might also be interested to know that Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most repressive state (which is saying something), received security assistance from 16 different Department of Defense and State Department programs between 2002 and 2013. Washington is currently supplying the government nearly 20 million dollars a year in military and police assistance.

In any event, if you are interested in this kind of data, you should check out the site.

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