NGO: U.S. Lost Track of Hundreds of Thousands of Guns in Afghanistan, Iraq

Ceerwan Aziz-Pool/Getty Images
Ceerwan Aziz-Pool/Getty Images

The Pentagon has lost track of at least 750,000 guns it provided to security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq during 14 years of the ongoing war on terror in response to the 9/11 attacks, according to a tally by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based charity.

The lost weapons could be fueling the black market, reports The New York Times (NYT).

NYT explains:

With a string of Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] requests that began last year, he [Overton] and his small team of researchers pooled 14 years’ worth of Pentagon contract information related to rifles, pistols, machine guns and their associated attachments and ammunition, both for American troops and for their partners and proxies. They then crosschecked the data against other public records.

The outlet also states:

Today the Pentagon has only a partial idea of how many weapons it issued, much less where these weapons are. Meanwhile, the effectively bottomless abundance of black-market weapons from American sources is one reason Iraq will not recover from its post-invasion woes anytime soon.

The charity’s research covered U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) data from September 11, 2001, thru September 10, 2015.

AOAV found that of an estimated 1.45 million guns the U.S. government gave to Iraq and Afghanistan over that period, the Pentagon could only account for 700,000 (48 percent).

The 1.45 million small arms included more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols, and almost 112,000 machine guns.

AOAV reports:

This [700,000] only accounts for 48% of the total small arms supplied by the US government found in open source government reports.

Such shortfalls highlights [sic] the lack of accountability, transparency and joined up data that exists at the very heart of the US government’s weapon procurement and distribution systems. AOAV’s findings are backed up by previous reviews. For instance, a US Government Accountability Office [GAO] report from 2007 found the US government had issued at least 185,000 AK47s procured for Iraq between 2004 and 2005 alone. Another 5,000 AK47s were recorded as being sent to Iraq in a US Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) request report in 2015. And yet, the DoD only claims 22,249 rifles of 7.62mm calibre were sent to Iraq. As the DoD pointed out, their data does not include weapons that were provided by the Department of Defense to the security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan without using the Foreign Military Sales system.

A 2014 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report also found, that in Afghanistan, 43% (or 203,888) of US funded small arms had duplicate or incomplete records.

NYT received an email from Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman, trying to explain the estimated 750,000 gap between the DoD’s count of 700,000 and the researcher’s tally of 1.45 million.

Wright wrote, “Speed was essential in getting those nations’ security forces armed, equipped and trained to meet these extreme challenges. As a result, lapses in accountability of some of the weapons transferred occurred.”

The spokesman noted that the Pentagon has improved its oversight and that to ensure “that equipment is only used for authorized purposes,” its representatives “inventory each weapon as it arrives in country and record the distribution of the weapon to the foreign partner nation.”

NYT points out:

Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.

Adding to the suspicion that the number is even larger, Overton is certain that his tally missed shipments, because the data that the Defense Department made available was incomplete or laden with contradictions that were not readily reconciled.


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