WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is setting up a new command to oversee how the United States and its allies train and equip the Ukrainian military, the Pentagon announced on Friday along with a new package of $400 million in security assistance.
The Pentagon’s commitment to supplying Ukraine with weaponry and the new command are clear signals that the United States expects the threat from Russia to Ukraine and its neighbors to persist for many years, current and former senior U.S. officials said.
The command will “ensure we are postured to continue supporting Ukraine over the long term,” Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, told reporters at a news briefing. “We remain committed to Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
The new command, called the Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, or SAG-U, would streamline a training and assistance system that was created on the fly after the Russian invasion in February. The Times reported in September that the new command was in the works.
The revamped assistance program will be led by a high-ranking general based in Germany. That officer, who will have a staff of about 300 people, will replace Lt. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, the head of the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps, who has coordinated much of the U.S. military assistance to Ukraine from behind the scenes over the past several months.
A leading candidate to take over the new position is Lt. Gen. Antonio A. Aguto, Jr., the head of the First U.S. Army headquarters, located at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, military officials said.
The additional $400 million in security assistance includes, for the first time, funding to refurbish 45 tanks from the Czech Republic, which will start arriving in Ukraine by the end of December, Ms. Singh said. The funding also will go to contracts for 1,100 Phoenix Ghost drones and an additional 40 riverine boats.
The latest announcement brings to $18.9 billion the amount in military assistance that the United States has committed to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. The funds comprise a combination of immediate shipments from stockpiles as well as contracts for weapons to be delivered over the next three years.
Over the past several months, General Donahue, who commanded the American evacuation from Afghanistan in August 2021, has helped oversee training in Ukraine, talking to Ukrainian generals about their battlefield needs and drawing on his Special Operations background to advise his Ukrainian counterparts.
General Donahue and his staff have been deployed to Poland and Germany since the early days of the war. His staff recently returned to its main headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C., where they were greeted this week by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. General Donahue will remain in Germany until his successor arrives, Pentagon officials said.
The new command, which will report to Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the top American officer in Europe, will carry out the decisions made by the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of 40 countries that the Defense Department created after the Russian invasion to address Ukraine’s needs and requests. Senior military officials from the member nations met in Brussels this week.
The changes, which aim to give a formal structure to what has been improvised since the war’s onset, are roughly modeled on U.S. train-and-assist efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades.