A Pentagon official told reporters on Monday that US military personnel have recently begun onsite inspections of US-provided weapons inside Ukraine, confirming a small US military presence on the ground.
“US personnel have recently resumed onsite inspections to assess weapon stocks in country whenever and wherever the security conditions allow,” the Pentagon official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The official said that the return of a “defense attaché and Office of Defense Cooperation personnel” to Ukraine has enabled the inspections. Both the defense attaché and Office of Defense Cooperation personnel are based at the US embassy in Kyiv.
Defense attachés are military officers stationed at US embassies that represent the Pentagon’s interests in the country. The Ukrainian government had previously said that defense attaché Brig. Gen. Garrick M. Harmon arrived in the country back in August.
According to the US Embassy in Kyiv’s website, the Office of Defense Cooperation “partners with Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces to provide military equipment, training, familiarization events, and educational opportunities in order to support the modernization of Ukraine’s military and bilateral foreign policy objectives, while engaging at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.”
The Pentagon official did not offer any details about where the onsite inspections are taking place. “In terms of the inspections, I’m not going to get into specific details on locations of where these inspections have taken place,” the official said.
According to The Associated Press, the inspections are part of a broader State Department initiative to ensure weapons sent to Ukraine don’t end up in Russia’s hands or on the black market. But there has been virtually no oversight up to this point, and Finnish authorities said this week that criminal gangs are smuggling arms that have been sent to Ukraine.
The weapons inspectors based at the US Embassy in Kyiv is the only US military presence inside Ukraine that has been confirmed by Washington and demonstrates the US’s growing involvement in the war. The Intercept recently reported that US special operations forces and CIA personnel are also inside the country, but the US hasn’t officially acknowledged the covert campaign.