- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In the latest tale of the war on terror gone awry, the U.S. government allowed military equipment purchased with taxpayer money to help Yemen’s security forces defeat Islamist extremists to sit unused inside a Virginia warehouse for a stunning eight years.

Even as the pro-U.S. government in Yemen was teetering and eventually overthrown by Islamist rebels in recent months, the Obama administration was unable to get the 200 parcels of equipment dislodged from its storage space and sent to its ally, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm for Congress.

The equipment ranged from explosives and night-vision goggles to medical supplies.

“Since 2007, 200 parcels of equipment Yemen purchased using U.S. government-funded Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants remain unshipped in a private warehouse in Virginia rather than meeting the intended goal of building and maintaining Yemeni security forces’ capability to counter threats such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” the GAO reported.

The equipment includes “some items that have expired while in storage and some that require special disposal. For example, the parcels include hazardous cargo that requires special disposal and low-grade explosives for airplane ejection seats that require special storage considerations. In addition, medical supplies have expired and batteries have corroded.”

The tale of how two consecutive U.S. administrations left valuable equipment in storage for one its key allies in the war on terror has no dramatic, secret twists.

It simply came down to a dispute over shipping and and storage fees from vendors that claimed they hadn’t been paid by the Yemeni government.

 

“In 2010 and 2011 equipment continued to accumulate at the freight forwarder’s warehouse as political unrest prevented shipments to Yemen. The Department of Defense (DOD) convinced the freight forwarder to waive storage fees accumulated during this period,” the GAO explained.

“Once holds on shipments were lifted in 2012, disagreements between Yemen and its freight forwarder resumed. In fiscal year 2012, Yemen began paying the U.S. military to ship newly funded FMF equipment and no longer used its own commercial freight forwarder.”

The disputes lingered on for three more years until the Pentagon in 2015 “worked with the freight forwarder and Yemen, resulting in the freight forwarder agreeing to release the equipment for $8,000 if Yemen paid by May 1, 2015.

The Pentagon even offered to reimburse the Yemeni government for this payment using funds previously earmarked for Yemen. But Yemen’s embassy failed to pay by the deadline because it “did not have the funds available to pay due to the ongoing crisis in their country,” GAO said.

The equipment remains undeployed even today, recently moved to another storage warehouse.

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