A bipartisan group of House leaders today won approval of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would ban the Defense Department from purchasing helicopters for Afghan Security Forces from any firm "controlled, directed, or influenced by" a nation that provides weapons to Syria or other state sponsors of terrorism. It also requires any such future contracts be competitively bid. The amendment, by Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Kay Granger (R-TX) and Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) was approved unanimously. The House will finish consideration of the bill tomorrow.
"Despite the fact more than 9,000 people in Syria have been tragically killed by the Assad regime since violence started there, the Defense Department is purchasing helicopters for the Afghan Security Forces through a no-bid contract with the Russian state arms dealer Rosoboronexport," DeLauro said. "Unbelievably, we are doing this despite the fact this company is not only a primary supplier of arms to Syria, but for years provided illegal nuclear assistance to Iran.
"If U.S. taxpayer dollars are going to be spent providing helicopters to the Afghans, those dollars should be spent on American systems that create jobs here at home," DeLauro continued. "And no U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to further enable the arming of the murderous regime in Syria. I am pleased the House adopted the amendment I put forth with my colleagues to end this unacceptable practice."
Granger said: "American helicopters are the best in the world and American companies should always be allowed to compete for defense contracts. In addition, our tax dollars should never support companies who continue to supply arms to the Syrian military in spite of the 9,000 people who have been killed over the last year."
"The United Nations estimates that tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed since peaceful pro-democracy protests began last year," added Ellison. "The Al-Assad Regime has met these peaceful protests with military force and a campaign of atrocities that include preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians. This is not the kind of regime Americans want to support in any way, shape, or form."
The Defense Department is currently purchasing 21 Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan Security Forces through a no-bid contract with the Russian state arms dealer Rosoboronexport. This is despite the fact that, in the midst of widespread attacks on civilians, it sold the Assad regime 36 combat jets. Ultimately, the Pentagon could pay up to $1 billion of taxpayer dollars to Rosoboronexport, money that could be spent on American-made helicopters.