Trends in International Arms Transfers

Trends in Global Arms Transfers, Libya Arms Embargo Failing, U.S. Commando Ops in Africa and more



March 22, 2021

Trends in International Arms Transfers

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, March 2021

The latest report from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) looking at trends in international arms transfers found that for the first time since 2001–2005, international transfers of major arms stayed at the same level between the two four year periods under study – 2011–15 and 2016–20. 

The flat growth caps what had been nearly two decades of steady growth in defense transfers. “It is too early to say whether the period of rapid growth in arms transfers of the past two decades is over,’ said Pieter D. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘For example, the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic could see some countries reassessing their arms imports in the coming years.” 

Nevertheless, the 2016-2020 period did see substantial increases in transfers by three of the top five arms exporters—the USA, France and Germany – which were offset by declines in transfers from Russi and China.  

As expected, the U.S. remains the largest exporter of arms in the world, increasing it’s share of exports from 32-37 percent, almost half of which were destined for the Middle East. 

The full report can be read here.

Security Assistance News & Research Roundup

News & Blog Posts


American Soldiers Help Mozambique Battle an Expanding ISIS Affiliate

New York Times, March 15

A dozen US Army Special Forces soldiers have begun training Mozambican troops in an effort to repulse a growing insurgency in northeastern Mozambique. The insurgency, which the United States believes is linked to the Islamic State, has killed at least 2,000 civilians and displaced 670,000 more.

Libya arms embargo ‘totally ineffective’: UN

Al Jazeera, March 17

A new United Nations report claims that the Libyan arms embargo imposed since 2011 has been “totally ineffective” due to “extensive, blatant” violations from some UN member states and private mercenaries. The report recommends restrictions for aircraft identified as having violated the embargo.

U.S. Has 1,000 More Troops in Afghanistan Than It Disclosed

New York Times, March 14

According to officials, the United States has 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan that it had previously disclosed due to temporary units and some “off the books” Special Operations forces. The additional forces bring US troop levels up to around 3,500 and further complicate the May 1 deadline to fully withdraw forces from Afghanistan. 

Biden administration considering 6-month extension for US troops in Afghanistan

CNN, March 18

The Biden administration is considering extending the May 1 deadline to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by six weeks. President Biden has said that withdrawing by the deadline would be “tough” but would not “take a lot longer.”


Austin on mission to deepen India-U.S. ties, urged to raise Russia deal

Reuters, March 19

As Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin prepares to meet with Indian officials in New Delhi, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez has urged Secretary Austin to express the Biden administration’s opposition to India’s planned purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems during the meeting. If India goes through with the deal, it could lead to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

Reuters, March 16

The head of SIGAR, John Sopko, noted that additional cuts in aid to Afghanistan could “bring the sudden demise of the Afghan government as we know it.” He warned of the consequences that cutting assistance could create, highlighting that 80% of the Afghan budget is funded by US and international donors.

Research, Analysis, and Opinion  


Opportunities to Regulate Conventional Arms in the Middle East and Horn of Africa

Manara Magazine, March 16

This article, co-authored by leading arms trade experts Rachel Stohl and Ryan Fletcher, considers the opportunities and challenges that exist to better regulate the flow of conventional weapons in the Middle East and Horn of Africa. More specifically, it examines the international mechanisms and regulatory architecture that exist to regulate the conventional arms trade, considers the extent to which these can be applied to regulate weapons flows in the region, and offers recommendations for increasing participation and supporting implementation of these instruments and other strategies to combat the unregulated trade in conventional arms, in a region already awash with weapons.

Stunning Classified Memo Details How U.S. Commandos Are Getting Beaten By Terrorists in Africa

Vice News, March 18

VICE World News has obtained formerly secret plans that, combined with a recent Pentagon report, detail the failures of U.S. special operations in Africa, particularly over the last two years. Analysis authored by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department research institution, paints a troubling portrait of the security situation on the continent. 



Data Fact of the Week:

Global share of major arms exports by the 10 largest exporters, 2016–2020

The graphic above, courtesy of SIPRI, illustrates the breakdown of the global arms export market by country. 

A new report from SIPRI shows that the U.S. remains by far the largest exporter of arms, accounting for 37% of the trade between 2016-2020.  

The full report can be found here.  

From The U.S. Government 

Defense Department


Major Arms Sale: Norway – Javelin FGM-148 Missiles

March 16, 2021  

Estimated cost of $36 million.

Major Arms Sale: North Macedonia – Stryker Vehicles

March 16, 2021  

Estimated cost of $210 million.

Major Arms Sale: The Netherlands – Ah-64 Pilot Training and Logistics Support

March 16, 2021  

Estimated cost of $190 million.

Major Arms Sale: The Netherlands – CH-47 Pilot Training and Logistics Support

March 16, 2021  

Estimated cost of $125 million.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings


Senate Armed Services Committee

3/23: Hearings to examine the nomination of Admiral John C. Aquilino, USN, for reappointment to the grade of admiral and to be Commander, United States Indo-Pacific Command, Department of Defense.

House Rules Committee

3/23: Article I: Reforming the War Powers Resolution for the 21st Century


Senate Foreign Relations Committee

3/23: Hearings to examine the nomination of Samantha Power, of Massachusetts, to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
3/25: Hearings to examine the U.S. response to the coup in Burma.

House Foreign Affairs Committee

3/23: Reclaiming Congressional War Powers

House Appropriations Committee

3/23: Future Defense Spending
3/25: Leading by Action: The Fierce Urgency for Diversity and Inclusion in the Foreign Policy Workforce

Upcoming Events (All Online)

3/22: CSIS Commission on the Korean Peninsula: Recommendations for the U.S.-Korea Alliance, hosted by CSIS
3/22: The Future of Violent Extremism in the Middle East, hosted by the Wilson Center
3/22: Senator Deb Fischer on the Future of Nuclear Modernization, hosted by the Heritage Foundation
3/23: Prospects for Peace: A Conversation with Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor, hosted by the Hudson Center
3/23: In a Consequential Year for Iraq, What’s Next? U.S. and Iraqi Perspectives on the Path Ahead in the Biden Era, hosted by USIP
3/24-25: North Korean Threat Perception and the US-South Korea Alliance: Political-Military Dimensions, hosted by the Hudson Center
3/24: The Afghanistan Papers a Year Later: A Live Q&A With Investigative Journalist Craig Whitlock, hosted by the  Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
3/25: The ATT and Gender-Based Violence – Practical Tools to Strengthen Export Licensing Risk Assessments, hosted by the Stimson Center
3/25: A Disarming Mission: A RAND Conversation with William Perry and Tom Collina, hosted by RAND
3/26: The Last Shah’: A book event with Ray Takeyh, hosted by AEI
Connect With Us on Social Media! 
Read Past Newsletters 
Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|*, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list