U.S. military personnel are now on the ground in Ukraine, keeping track of and inspecting weapons the U.S. has shipped to Ukrainian forces, a senior defense official announced during a Pentagon background briefing on Monday. These U.S. personnel are some of the first the Pentagon has acknowledged have entered Ukraine since Russia launched its large scale invasion of the country in February.
The senior defense official who spoke on background during an official Pentagon event, said, “U.S. personnel have recently resumed on-site inspections to assess weapon stocks in country whenever and wherever the security conditions allow.” The official said “the return of our defense attaché and Office of Defense Cooperation personnel in country has allowed us to resume this critical function.”
The U.S. Defense attaché for Ukraine is U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Garrick Harmon.
The Biden administration ordered U.S. troops out of Ukraine in February just days before Russia launched its invasion. The Associated Press reported the administration did return some troops to provide security at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv earlier this year.
This official acknowledgement that U.S. military personnel are back in Ukraine comes as the latest sign of U.S. support for Ukraine’s military. The U.S. has sent several shipments of arms to Ukraine and, some outlets have reported U.S. intel has helped Ukrainian forces target and attack specific high-value Russian targets, including vulnerable warships and generals.
The defense official said “there have been several of these inspections” but didn’t specify when they began. The defense official’s comments come after the U.S. State Department announced a plan to prevent U.S. and western-provided weaponry from ending up on the black market or be captured by pro-Russian forces who could use them to “develop countermeasures, propaganda, or to conduct false-flag operations.”
The defense official said “the U.S. embassy has found the Ukrainians to be very transparent and able to support inspections” thus far.
When asked what the U.S. Department of Defense personnel could do inside the Ukraine, the defense official said DoD personnel are assessing various equipment needs but “otherwise, our role is to support our civilian agency counterparts if they should request our assistance as they support the Ukrainians.”
When asked how close U.S. personnel have gotten to the front lines during these inspections, the defense official said “I’m not going to get into specific details on locations of where these inspections have taken place.”