One question left unanswered by the officials summoned to Capitol Hill yesterday to talk about arms dealer AEY was this: Why did U.S. taxpayers end up spending $300 million for Cold War-era ammunition rounds which it easily could have gotten it for free?
Eastern Europe is full of old Soviet-era ammunition. And many countries have been offering to give it away for years. Countries like Bosnia, Bulgaria and Hungary.
In fact, the Albanian Defense Minister himself offered to give the U.S. virtually the same ammo that AEY ended up providing under contract.
The House oversight committee report said:
The Committee has been informed that on December 23, 2007, the Albanian President and Defense Minister traveled to Iraq to meet with General David Petraeus, the commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. According to Major Larry Harrison, the Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation, he personally accompanied the Albanian officials on this trip and attended the meeting. Major Harrison informed Committee staff that the Albanian officials offered to donate the country’s surplus ammunition to Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to Major Harrison, General Petraeus rejected this offer because Albania was known to possess large quantities of Chinese munitions, which cannot be received under United States law.
That’s the same Albanian defense minister, Fatmir Mediu, who a few months later reportedly called a late night meeting with U.S. Ambassador John Withers in Tirana and talked about how to conceal the Chinese origins of an AEY shipment. The ammunition was purchased by AEY to supply the Afghan Army.
Mediu had made his offer of free ammo very publicly.
Incidentally, Mediu resigned from his post a few months ago after a massive explosion at a weapons depot in Albania killed 26 people. It was a major disaster for such a small country, and underscored Albania’s massive weapons stockpiles. AFP reported:
The Socialist-led opposition accused the government of corruption in dealing with the disposal of obsolete weapons, and called on Prime Minister Berisha to resign.