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US to expand military training for Ukraine

Washington announced the stepped-up training alongside a new $2.6 billion weapons package for Kiev

The Pentagon has said it is preparing to “expand” its training of Ukrainian forces, noting the instruction would focus on different types of weapons and maneuvers. While the US has sought to accelerate its shipment of Abrams main battle tanks to Kiev, training on that platform has yet to begin.

Speaking to reporters for a background briefing on Tuesday, a senior defense official said that in addition to a newly approved weapons package worth more than $2.6 billion, Washington has also “expanded US-led training” to focus on “combined arms and joint maneuver operations.”

Though the official provided few details on the new training, they noted that 4,000 Ukrainian troops had recently completed instruction on the US-made Bradley fighting vehicle and the Stryker armored personnel carrier, both of which have been supplied to Kiev. Since fighting with Russia kicked off last year, the Pentagon has trained more than 7,000 soldiers in total, many of them in Germany, the official added. 

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FILE PHOTO. A forklift at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware moves 155 mm shells to be delivered to Ukraine, April 29, 2022.
Pentagon unveils contents of Ukraine aid package

However, asked about training for the M1 Abrams tank – which Washington has also agreed to ship to Ukraine despite initial reluctance – the official said it had not even started, as the military is “still working on the equipment procurement.” They could not provide an exact timeline for when it might begin, but hoped it could move forward “relatively soon.”

After refusing to send battle tanks, President Joe Biden reversed course earlier this year when Germany said it would provide its own Leopard tanks, opting to ship 31 units. Deliveries were originally set to take up to two years, prompting the Pentagon to again change course and offer an older variant of the same weapon, which could now reach the battlefield by the fall. 

The United States has also instructed Ukrainian troops on a variety of other weapons systems – including for the Patriot missile defense battery on US territory – and held “combined-arms” training at bases in Germany. 

The new weapons package announced in conjunction with the “expanded” training includes additional artillery rounds, rockets, missiles and other ammunition, 30mm gun trucks, grenade launchers and Javelin anti-tank systems, among other gear. The aid brought total US military assistance to Ukraine to nearly $36 billion since Biden took office in 2021.

Despite vast sums of money and weapons donated to Ukrainian forces, multiple training programs hosted by the US military, and Western intelligence support offered to Kiev, American officials continue to insist Washington is not a participant in the conflict. Moscow has repeatedly warned against foreign arms shipments to Ukraine, arguing they would not deter its military aims and only prolong the fighting. 

READ MORE: US assessing Ukrainians for possible F-16 training – NBC

April 05, 2023 at 10:34AM

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