US Security Assistance: Dhaka requires fresh deal with Washington
Bangladesh needs to sign an agreement with the US for getting continuous funding for security cooperation in line with the recent amendments to its Leahy Law that governs the nation's funding to foreign security forces.
As per the Leahy Law, the US needs to sign agreements with the countries it provides security assistance to, said a letter sent earlier this month to the foreign ministry by the US State Department.
And under the agreement, Bangladesh will need to inform the US government of the security forces that receive the assistance.
Bangladesh was asked to respond to the letter by December 15 but Dhaka has now sought until December 31 to give feedback, said a foreign ministry official on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The request for a time extension comes after the US on December 11 imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion and seven of its current and former top officials concerning human rights violations.
This disqualifies Rab, an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism agency, from any US assistance.
The Leahy Law prohibits the US government from assisting units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights (GVHR).
The US government considers torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and rape under colour of law as GVHRs when implementing the Leahy law. Incidents are examined on a fact-specific basis.
The Leahy Law includes an exception permitting the resumption of assistance to a unit if the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that the government of the country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.
An inter-ministerial meeting was held at the foreign ministry in the middle of the month on the matter, according to the official.
"We are further discussing the matter and will let the US government know our decision soon after a meeting next week," he added.
Apart from economic, trade and political ties, Bangladesh has strong security cooperation with the US.
Since 2015, the US provided $66.9 million in foreign military financing and $7.29 million in international military education and training assistance to Bangladesh, according to the US State Department.
The US government has $130.59 million in active government-to-government sales cases with Bangladesh under the foreign military sales system.
In 2012, Bangladesh acquired four C-130E transport aircraft worth $180 million. In addition, Bangladesh received 20 aircraft engines provided with Title 10 security assistance funding under the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) programme.
Bangladesh also received two former US Coast Guard Hamilton Class cutters via EDA in 2013 and 2015, which now serve as the two largest vessels in the Bangladesh Navy.
Additionally, the country received 50 EDA MRAP vehicles in 2019 to support its peacekeepers in Mali.
The US also provides support including training and equipment for the Bangladesh Peacekeeping Missions in the UN.