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Ms. DeLAURO. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would prohibit funds in this bill from being used by the Defense Department to train the Afghan Special Mission Wing to operate or maintain Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters.
Over 93,000 people have died in a tragic war in Syria that is being fueled by Russian arms being supplied to the Assad regime. Over 1.6 million Syrian refugees are now hosted across five countries. By the end of the year, half the population of Syria will be in need of aid.
We know for a fact that the Russian arms manufacturer, Rosoboronexport, is arming Syria. The Syrian Army requested 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 20 million rounds of ammunition, machine guns, grenade launchers, grenades, and sniper rifles with night-vision sights. And Russia also recently announced it would provide Assad with advanced S-300 missile defense batteries. Yet, our Defense Department continues to channel business to this Russian arms manufacturer.
DOD recently skirted around a prohibition on purchasing Mi-17 helicopters from Russia's state arms dealer in last year's Defense appropriations bill, signing a contract with Rosoboronexport to procure 30 Mi-17s for the Afghan Specialty Mission Wing using 2012 Afghanistan Security Forces Fund moneys.
This contract signing, flying in the face of congressional intent, incredibly came just days after this House voted 423-0 to strengthen the prohibition on Pentagon business with the Russian arms dealer--a prohibition also included in this Defense appropriations bill.
Even more egregious, it also came on the heels of a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that recommended suspension of the plans to purchase these helicopters for the Afghan Special Mission Wing as the Afghans do not even have the capacity to use them.
The Defense Department touts the 30 years of experience the Afghans have with the Mi-17 helicopters as a key reason to purchase them, yet we are still trying to train them to fly these helicopters instead of American-made helicopters--training that the Inspector General report says has been slow and uneven.
The report also argues that moving forward with the acquisition of these Mi-17 helicopters is highly imprudent until, among other things, an agreement is reached on NATO's Afghanistan Training Mission concept for reorganization within the Afghan Government to support this Special Mission Wing.
Mr. Chairman, U.S. taxpayers should not be subsidizing the Russian state arms dealer that is fueling the war in Syria. The language already included in this bill states this. We should also not be spending money to train an Afghan unit to fly these Russian helicopters, particularly when the Inspector General has raised serious questions about the content of that unit's capabilities.
I urge support for my amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.
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Ms. DeLAURO. I just want to say to my good friend that I think that we ought to be amenable to working with Afghanistan in these final days, but I don't make up this information.
Our Defense Department continues to channel business to this Russian arms manufacturer. DOD skirted around the prohibition on purchasing Mi-17 helicopters in the last appropriations bill. We voted overwhelmingly--I don't know that there has been a vote in this House on a bipartisan basis that was 423-0--to prohibit this.
So what did the DOD do? The DOD went around that and went to a different pot of money. And one could acknowledge that, but in addition to acknowledging that, I'm going to quote to you from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction:
Afghan Special Mission Wing: DOD plans to spend $908 million to build air wing that the Afghans cannot operate and maintain.
Now, I don't know why we keep in business an Inspector General that would give us this report, and then we fly in the face of it and not acknowledge its veracity. In addition to which, we are dealing with an arms dealer that is supplying arms, grenades, Kalashnikovs, missiles to Syria, where over 93,000 people have already been killed.
The point is that we shouldn't enter a contract when there is no capability to fly these helicopters.
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