The State Department Clarifies its EDA Donation Process

Central Eurasia

On Monday, the United States State Department released a statement regarding the availability of Excess Defense Articles (EDA) from Afghanistan. The statement came on the heels of reports that Pakistan is interested in receiving leftover U.S. equipment from Afghanistan, especially advanced Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. Last year, the New York Times published a similar story about Uzbekistan’s EDA “wish list,” which concerned Uzbekistan’s neighbors and shone a spotlight on U.S. defense cooperation with a country sporting an “abysmal” human rights record.

After the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan first said that Pakistan’s MRAP request would be rejected, the State Department released its statement to clarify the U.S. government’s process of donating excess equipment from Afghanistan, regardless of which country makes the request. This statement makes three important points:

  • “All EDA is provided as is, where is – meaning recipient countries are responsible for the transportation and any needed refurbishment costs for all EDA transfers.”
  • “Our decisions on worldwide EDA transfers involve a thorough and deliberate review that considers the needs of potential recipients, our mutual national security needs, the ability of the recipient to sustain the equipment, and other factors.”
  • “The State Department works with the Department of Defense to identify recipients for excess defense articles. The State Department retains final statutory approval. The State Department reviews each EDA request carefully.”


These points are consistent with earlier research conducted by regional military analyst Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, who argues in a recent report that Central Asian countries are unlikely to receive a significant amount of equipment through the EDA program. First, Gorenburg addresses the cost element of the EDA process, writing: “Furthermore, countries receiving EDA equipment would be responsible for its shipment from Afghanistan to their territory. Most Central Asian states would not be able to afford the cost of such a transfer.”

Gorenburg also writes that there are multiple reasons why the U.S. would not donate major defense systems to Central Asian countries. For one, Gorenburg lists examples of Central Asian countries failing to properly use equipment donated by the U.S., such as Kazakhstan basing helicopters intended for maritime security far away from the Caspian Sea. Furthermore, while the Central Asian countries provide the U.S. with strategically important access to Afghanistan, Gorenburg believes that the EDA process would not be used as quid pro quo for this access. This is because the transit agreements have already been signed, while no noteworthy EDA donations have been announced. Lastly, Gorenburg notes that the U.S. hasn’t donated strategically significant military items to Central Asia in the past, and it isn’t likely to start now. In short, Gorenburg concludes: “Much of the discussion about the extent of such assistance has overstated both the amount and significance of equipment likely to be provided and the potential impact of such assistance on regional security.”

Nonetheless, Gorenburg still writes, “it seems likely that at least some EDA equipment will be transferred to Central Asian states at some point in the future.” Moreover, Central Asia security analyst Joshua Kucera suggests that while EDA requests by Pakistan (and now India) would probably get top consideration from the U.S. government, Uzbekistan could still obtain some important excess articles. And finally, notwithstanding the State Department’s statement that all EDA recipients are responsible for shipping and handling costs, the U.S. Code responsible for authorizing the EDA program does allow for the U.S. to pay transportation costs under certain conditions:

  • It is in U.S. national interest
  • The recipient is a developing country receiving less than $10 million in Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training assistance
  • The items weigh less than 50,000 pounds
  • Such transportation is accomplished on a space available basis


Specifically regarding the second condition, all Central Asian countries should qualify.

In short, there are clearly many countries eyeing the stockpile of U.S. weapons in Afghanistan, but as the State Department emphasizes, there is a specific, State-led process that will determine if and who can receive this equipment. As such, it is still unclear how much Afghanistan’s neighbors can benefit from the United States’ Excess Defense Articles program.