Special IG Report: Afghans Losing Track of U.S-Provided Weapons

by Jim Geraghty

The U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction just released a report revealing that the Afghan military and police forces are doing a poor job of keeping track of the weapons provided to them by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The report by Special Inspector General John F. Sopko
offers a chilling conclusion:

Given the Afghan government’s limited ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, there is a real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the Afghan National Secrity Forces, and Afghan civilians.

As of December 30, 2013, the Pentagon had provided more than 747,000 weapons and auxiliary equipment to the Afghan military and police, valued at approximately $626 million. That sum includes 465,000 small arms — rifles and pistols — and the report concludes that controls over the accountability of small arms provided to the Afghans are insufficient both before and after the weapons are handed over to them.

The Department of Defense uses two weapons-inventory systems, the Security Cooperation Information Portal and the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD). The two systems are not linked to each other, and the review found missing, duplicate, and incomplete information within both systems.

The report does not offer a reassuring portrait of the Afghan National Police, reporting that the police don’t have an established and reliable system for keeping track of weapons and limited prospects for developing one:

With regard to the ANP, it currently has no standardized or automated system to account for weapons. Per [U.S.] officials, the record accounting system called the “Universal Listing of Transactions for Record Accounting” has been under development since 2010 for ANP depot inventories, but the system has yet to be fielded as of the time of our audit report, and DOD has not determined an implementation date. The ANP instead rely on a combination of hard copy, hand written records, and some Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to maintain inventory records.

According to [U.S.] officials, efforts to develop the capabilities of ANSF personnel to manage the central depots have been hindered by the lack of basic education or skills among ANSF personnel and frequent turnover of Afghan staff.

Auditors from the Inspector General’s office checked the inventories of weapons at four facilities in Afghanistan: the Afghan National Army Kandahar Regional Military Training Center, the Afghan National Police National Supply Depot, the 1st Afghan National Civil Order Police Garrison Facility, and the Afghan National Army Central Supply Depot. The inspectors found satisfactory results at the first three sites, but the total number of weapons ANA Central Supply Depot differed greatly from the available records.

Checking the inventory at the supply depot against the records, the inspector general’s staff found 24 M2 machine guns, four M48 machine guns, and 740 M16 rifles missing from the depot. The inventory also found 80 more M24 sniper rifles than the records indicated should be there, 191 more M48 rifles, and 82 M9 Beretta pistols.

The report also found that the problem of lost weapons is likely to get worse in the coming years. The Afghan National Army and police forces changed the weapons that they use several times in recent years, leading to a surplus. According to the analysis of the inspector general’s office, the Afghan military and police force already have more than 112,000 weapons that exceed their current requirements. Records for disposing of excess weapons are spotty at best.

In a written response to the IG report, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael J. Dumont said he concurred in part, and aimed to communicate the concerns to the Afghan government. But he cautioned that the U.S. has no authority to require the Afghan forces to “perform a 100 percent inventory of small arms transferred to them by DoD” and that “the DoD does not have the authority to recover or destroy Afghan weapons.”

This morning’s release is the latest in a series of reports from the IG office offering a troubling portrait of the U.S. effort to leave a stable Afghan government after its military withdrawal. Other reports have detailed U.S.-provided planes unlikely to be used by the Afghan Air Force, U.S.-built barracks and medical facilities made of particularly flammable materials, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to promote soybean farming that may not be viable, and a $2.89 million food-processing facility that was never used.

Have you seen this M2 machine gun, and 23 like it?