US military proxy programs are running wild: Responsible Statecraft
American programs for foreign proxies are going unchecked and unmonitored for human rights violations and possible war crimes.
Two developments this week underscored the fact that US programs that provide arms and training to foreign military forces are out of control to the detriment of human rights, regional stability, and US security.
The United States proxy military programs are running unchecked, which, in turn, is undermining human rights conduct, impacting regional stability and US security, Responsible Statecraft said in a report on Wednesday.
Citing discoveries that emerged this week, the news site mentioned a report published by the New York Times revealing, based on US official documents, that two American training programs designed for foreign proxies acting under US instructions don't include a background check on personnel involved to ensure that they have not engaged in actions that violate human rights.
Read more: Pentagon pushes to resume work of irregular warfare proxies in Ukraine
Under the first program called 127e, “American commandos pay, train and equip foreign partner forces and then dispatch them on kill-or-capture operations,” NYT said. While under the second program called Section 1202, the United States funds military activities during non-war periods, ranging from propaganda to sabotage operations.
The documents confirming the report were obtained by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs, an advocate for legislating human rights vetting into the training programs, warned that the US needs "to make sure that we are not training abusive units to become even more lethal and fueling the conflict and violence that we’re aiming to solve,” adding that this "starts with universal human rights vetting.”
In a letter, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Mike Lee asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take notice of the flaws in US efforts at "end-use monitoring", which includes physical tracking of the final destination of US-supplied weapons to prevent them from reaching parties that were not designated by Washington as the receivers, in addition to monitoring how recipients use these weapons.
Read more: US leaked docs make Ukraine troops look like proxy war pawns: Expert
In the report, RS cites as an example the massacres carried out by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen, which killed hundreds of thousands, in addition to the blockade and seige that prevented basic supplies from reaching the country.
Despite the war atrocities, the United States continued to supply them with weapons, without facing any consequences for their doings.
Responding to a letter from Sen. Warren in September 2022 regarding the use of American weapons to commit possible war crimes in Yemen, the State Department confirmed that “since 2012, the Department has not paused, reduced, or canceled any Foreign Military Sales cases or deliveries as a result of its investigations into reports that a foreign government used U.S.-origin or U.S.-provided defense articles for purposes other than those for which the items were furnished by the U.S. government.”
In February, Washington introduced the Conventional Arms Transfer CAT policy, which offers more scrutiny on the recipients of US weapons and their use of the arms.
Read more: Assisted 'genocide': How allied weapons embolden Saudi crimes in Yemen
“No arms transfer will be authorized where the United States assesses that it is more likely than not that the arms to be transferred will be used by the recipient to commit, facilitate the recipients’ commission of, or to aggravate risks that the recipient will commit: genocide; crimes against humanity; grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, including attacks intentionally directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such; or other serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, including serious acts of gender‑based violence or serious acts of violence against children.”
The CAT also allows revoking weapon transfers if terms are violated.
”If a transfer had previously been authorized and circumstances have changed in ways that would materially increase the risk of any of the negative consequences listed above, the United States will reassess and, as appropriate, review options for ceasing the transfer of or support for a previous authorization.”
Had the policy been adopted and implemented since the start of the Saudi-UAE war on Yemen in 2015, it would have put an end to all US arms transfer to the Arab countries for their routine killing of civilians using American weapons, RS said, adding that - in addition to the moral conflict - these weapons are used by states to kill civilians, incite and prolong wars, and also prepare an atmosphere suitable for the rise of extremist groups, which, in turn, would also create security challenges for the US.
The report called for making American training programs more regulated, stressing that banning the transfer of weapons to entities that are likely to violate human rights should be a base for US policy.
In July 2022, private documents and interviews with more than a dozen current and former government officials revealed that small teams of US Special Operations personnel are engaging in a low-profile proxy war operation on a significantly larger scale than previously recognized.
The documents confirm then that at least 14 127e programs were active in the greater Middle East and the Asia-Pacific as recently as 2020. In total, US commandos conducted at least 23 separate 127e programs internationally.
A former Army general, Joseph Votel, verified the existence of previously unknown 127e "counterterrorism" initiatives in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
According to the information, even most members of relevant congressional committees and important State Department staff are unaware of basic details concerning these operations, such as where they are carried out, their frequency and targets, and the foreign troops on whom the US relies.
The cost of the 127e operations between 2017 and 2020 was $310 million.
The United States arms, trains, and supplies intelligence to foreign armies via 127e. 127e partners are then dispatched on US-directed operations, targeting US opponents to achieve US interests, under the guise of "counterterrorism" operations, in contrast to standard foreign aid programs, which are largely meant to create local capacity. “The foreign participants in a 127-echo program are filling gaps that we don’t have enough Americans to fill,” according to a former senior Pentagon official engaged with the program. “If someone were to call a 127-echo program a proxy operation, it would be hard to argue with them.”