Pentagon 'loses track' of U.S. weapons in Yemen: Report

Houthis demonstrate to commemorate the anniversary of an attack on pro-democracy protesters, in Sanaa
Houthis demonstrate to commemorate the anniversary of an attack on pro-democracy protesters, in Sanaa March 17, 2015. The attack, known as the "Friday of Dignity Massacre", on protesters rallying against the rule of Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, left scores dead in March 2011. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (YEMEN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) (REUTERS)

The ongoing unrest that forced the United States to close its embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, last month also has caused Pentagon officials to admit that they’ve lost track of $500 million in military equipment, including helicopters, Humvees and ammunition, that it donated to the country, The Washington Post reports.

U.S. officials told the newspaper that they fear the “small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies” may have slipped into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaida:

In recent weeks, members of Congress have held closed-door meetings with U.S. military officials to press for an accounting of the arms and equipment. Pentagon officials have said that they have little information to go on and that there is little they can do at this point to prevent the weapons and gear from falling into the wrong hands.

“We have to assume it’s completely compromised and gone,” an unnamed legislative aide on Capitol Hill told The Washington Post.

According to the newspaper, this is what is presumed missing:

• 1,250,000 rounds of ammunition
• 200 Glock 9 mm pistols
• 200 M-4 rifles
• 4 Huey II helicopters
• 2 Cessna 208 transport and surveillance aircraft
• 2 coastal patrol boats
• 1 CN-235 transport and surveillance aircraft
• 4 hand-launched Raven drones
• 160 Humvees
• 250 suits of body armor
• 300 sets of night-vision goggles

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the record about the newspaper’s report.

In January, Yemen’s government and its U.S.-backed president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, were toppled by the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, who seized control of northern Yemeni military bases. In February, a military base in southern Yemen was overrun by militants linked to al-Qaida.

“Yemen is collapsing before our eyes,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned during a February briefing. “We cannot stand by and watch.”

The U.S. Department of Defense had already halted shipments of $125 million in military hardware — “including unarmed ScanEagle drones, other types of aircraft and jeeps” — scheduled for delivery to Yemen this year, The Washington Post reported.

During the evacuation of the Sanaa embassy, U.S. Marines were ordered to destroy their weapons and depart the country unarmed — a move that sparked backlash among some who argued that service members are taught never to leave their weapons behind.

On Tuesday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford testified on Capitol Hill, saying the decision was backed by the U.S. Central Command as well the Department of Defense in Washington.

Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline fired back: “It is an intolerable position for people in uniform to be in a very dangerous situation and have to trust those who put us in that situation while we turn over all weapons.”

Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported that Houthi rebels seized “more than 25 official U.S. vehicles in the wake of the hasty departure of embassy staff.”