‘Shiny new toys’: WikiLeaks reveals US plan to give $147mn in military hardware to Yemen

© Baz Ratner
WikiLeaks has released hundreds of documents from the US embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, revealing details of America’s multi-million dollar military support for the government of the volatile country.

The ‘Yemen Files’ consist of more than 500 documents, dating between 2009 and March 2015, covering both Hillary Clinton's term as Secretary of State and the first two years of John Kerry’s term.

A Department of Defense powerpoint presentation dated August 2010, which is revealed in the dump, lays out a detailed plan for equipping the Yemeni government with arms through the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program and other “security assistance programs”.

Several slides warn against becoming trapped in an expensive cycle where the Yemeni government keep buying and receiving “shiny new toys”, leading to mounting costs for the US.

The expense of buying these “shiny new toys” is one thing, but that initial outlay is then followed by increasing expenses on the training, maintenance and upgrades required to use them.

© WikiLeaks

The goals outlined in the document were to make Yemen “a stable state where violent extremists cannot operate” and “to limit the regional impacts of terrorism, trafficking and piracy.”

The estimated total cost of the weapons to be supplied to the Yemeni government is $147 million. Some $99 million of that was earmarked for a “counterterrorism aviation support” package, $41 million was for the Yemeni Navy for “operations support and capacity building” and a further $7 million allocated for a “counterterrorism direct action force support” package.

© WikiLeaks
© WikiLeaks

The packages include a number of aircraft, patrol boats, weapons and support as well as on-site US training and assistance teams and even two English-language labs.

The document repeatedly notes the key risk of supplying Yemen with weapons is that the arms could potentially be used “for other purposes counter to US interests,” such as against Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, or secessionists in the south of the country.

It notes that “given the state of the Yemen economy” almost all of the money spent bolstering the Yemeni military is given in non-repayable loans from US government funds.

The documents says that between 2002 and 2008, the US gave the Yemeni government over $105m worth of weapons such as military trucks, machine guns, ammunition, armored personnel carriers and boats through non-repayable grants and donations.

The presentation discusses the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program which sends 20-25 Yemeni military students to various military schools in the US. The program is funded to the tune of about $1 million per year and is considered a very effective return on investment “for advancing US diplomatic or policy goals”.

In a statement accompanying Friday’s release of documents, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: "The war in Yemen has produced 3.15 million internally displaced persons. Although the United States government has provided most of the bombs and is deeply involved in the conduct of the war itself, reportage on the war in English is conspicuously rare."