Foreign Relations & International Law

State Department Issues Arms Transfer Assurance Report

Matt Gluck
Friday, May 10, 2024, 7:33 PM
The department finds insufficient evidence of IHL violations to cut off U.S. weapons to partners actively engaged in conflict.

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On May 10, Secretary of State Antony Blinken released the State Department’s “Report to Congress under Section 2 of the National Security Memorandum on Safeguards and Accountability with Respect to Transferred Defense Articles and Defense Services (NSM-20).” 

On Feb. 8, President Biden issued NSM-20, which required the secretary of state to obtain from foreign governments that receive U.S. weapons and, in certain cases, other U.S. military assistance “credible and reliable written assurances” that they were using U.S. weapons and services “in accordance with international humanitarian law and, as applicable, other international law.”  The memo also required the secretary of state to receive assurances that recipient countries were enabling the delivery of U.S. or U.S.-supported humanitarian assistance. 

For countries the secretary of state determined were engaged as of the date the memo was issued “in an active armed conflict” in which U.S. weapons or military services were being used, the secretary was required by the memo to obtain compliance assurances within 45 days of the issuance of the memo—without which the transfer of weapons and the provision of services were supposed to be paused. The secretary was given 180 days to obtain assurances from other countries. 

The State Department’s report issued today identifies seven countries fighting active armed conflicts and using U.S. defense articles: “Colombia, Iraq, Israel, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, and Ukraine.” The secretary writes that each of those countries submitted assurances, which the department reviewed by March 24—45 days after Biden’s issuance of NSM-20. 

The department determines that while certain circumstances raise concerns, the U.S. government at the moment deems the assurances "credible and reliable so as to allow the provision of defense articles covered under NSM-20 to continue.”

With respect to Israel in particular, the department writes that while “it is difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents … it is reasonable to assess that defense articles covered under NSM-20 have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its IHL obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.” Regarding humanitarian aid, the department states that it does not “currently assess that the Israeli government is prohibiting or otherwise restricting the transport or delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance within the meaning of section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act.”

You can read the report here or below.

Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.

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