BuzzFeed reports: At the heart of the high-stakes U.S. program to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight ISIS is a multimillion-dollar arms deal that the Pentagon farmed out to a tiny, little-known private company called Purple Shovel LLC. A BuzzFeed News investigation, based on inside documents and confidential sources familiar with the Syria operation, has found:
▸ Purple Shovel, through the subcontractors it selected and oversaw, tried to sell the U.S. thousands of Russian-style rocket-propelled grenades that were considered unreliable because they were manufactured three decades ago, before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union.
▸ The U.S. government rejected them, and that delayed to the effort to stand up the Syrian rebel force.
▸ An American contractor, 41-year-old Francis Norwillo, was killed in a weapons explosion in Bulgaria while training with such outdated grenades.
▸ The U.S. violated its own policy and gave Purple Shovel approval to acquire millions of dollars’ worth of high-tech missiles for the rebels from Belarus, a dictatorship that is under sanctions by the European Union. Belarus, which has supplied weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and is accused of human rights violations, is normally off-limits to U.S. arms dealers. But the U.S. military and State Department agreed to make an exception, allowing 700 powerful anti-tank missiles to be purchased, with U.S. taxpayer funds, for the rebels. [Continue reading…]