Weapons given to Iraq unaccounted for

An estimated 110,000 of the 185,000 AK47 rifles, 80,000 of the 170,000 pistols, 135,000 of the 215,000 items of body armor and 115,000 of the 140,000 helmets given to Iraqi security forces (funded by the U.S.) from June 2004 until December 2005 are reportedly missing, unaccounted for by the Pentagon, thought to be in the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

A report (PDF) from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that 30 percent of the weapons distributed to the Iraqi forces from 2004 to earlier this year disappeared and U.S. military officials don’t know what happened to them.

The GAO estimates the U.S. has spent $19.2 billion in efforts to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, including $2.8 billion to purchase and deliver equipment. According the GAO, weapons distribution was haphazard, rushed and didn’t follow established procedures, particularly from June 2004 until December 2005.

As of July 2007 no accountability procedures, if any existed, had been specified by the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) to the train-and-equip program for Iraq. Because Congress funded the program, the DoD stated that their accountability programs normally applicable (including registering small arms transferred to foreign governments) did not apply.

Additionally, MNF-I doesn’t have orders that comprehensively specify accountability procedures for equipment distributed to the Iraqi security forces.

Consequently, the DoD and the MNF-I cannot fully account for the equipment received by the Iraqi security forces by the U.S. Government.

Two factors leading to the inaccountability

First, the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq (MNSTC-I) didn’t maintain a centralized record of distributed equipment to the Iraqi security forces from June 2004 until December 2005. At that time a consolidated property book system was established to track the issuance of equipment and attempts were made to recover past records.

The GAO analysis found a discrepancy of at least 190,000 weapons between the data reported by the former MNSTC-I commander and the amounts in the property books. The discrepancy was attributed to an insufficient number of staff and the lack of a fully operational network to distribute equipment, among other reasons given by former MNSTC-I officials.

Second, since the progam began, the MNSTC-I hasn’t consistently collected the supporting documents confirming when equipment was received, the quantities received or the Iraqi security units receiving the equipment. The command has placed greater emphasis on collecting the necessary documentation, but a review of the 2007 property books found continuing problems with missing and incomplete records.

Further complications involved the propery books consisting of extensive electronic spreadsheets, were inefficient due to the large amount of data required and the limited amount of personnel available to maintain the system. The data is supposed to be moved into a database management system by summer 2007.

Recommendations and the outcome

The GAO recommended having the Security of Defense determine what DoD accountability procedures apply or should apply to the program, and then ensure that sufficient staff, functioning distribution networks, and proper technology are available to meet the requirements of the new procedures. The DoD concurred with both recommendations.

Here’s the best part: The General responsible for unaccountability was General David Petraeus, who is now in charge of the complete U.S. military effort in Iraq. The same General who will be providing a report to Congress next month regarding the status of the war in Iraq. This should be entertaining.

More Information from the Washington Post

The Washington Post is reports that a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information noted that it’s not known where the weapons are, and that the Bush administration frequently complains that both Iran and Syria are supplying insurgents with weapons, but has paid little attention to whether or not U.S. military errors have inadvertently played a role.

She also noted that U.S. forces were so focused on a never ending search for weapons of mass destruction (they never existed to begin with) after the fall of Baghdad, that they didn’t secure massive weapons caches. Failing to track the small arms given to the Iraqi security forces (which includes the Iraqi Army, Navy, and Air Force under the Ministry of Defense and the Iraqi Police, National Police, and Border Enforcement under the Ministry of Interior), repeats that pattern of neglect.

About $100 million in defense equipment provided to the Bosnian Federation Army by the United States during the Bosnian conflict. The GAO found no problems accounting for those weapons.

A report issued last year by Amnesty International said that in 2004 and 2005, more than 350,000 AK-47 rifles and similar weapons were removed from Bosnia and Serbia for use in Iraq, by private contractors working for the Pentagon and with the approval of NATO and European security forces in Bosnia.

Before they go blaming everyone else, they need to take some of the responsibility for it too since very little was ever planned correctly to begin with.

Iraq War Veterans being billed

That might explain this article from CBS wondering why some servicemen and women who made enormous sacrifices fighting in Iraq are being billed for lost or damaged government property. Exactly what the damaged government property consists of is unknown. The Army doesn’t even know.

An Iraq war veteran, honorably discharged four years ago, started getting $700 bills from the U.S. Army this summer for lost or damaged property, demanding payment, but not telling him why he was paying or what he was paying for. There isn’t even a way to dispute the charges.

He’s not the only one. A 2006 government report found over 1,000 soldiers who were being billed a total of $1.5 million by the Army for unknown lost and damaged government property. Putting their lives on the line in one part of the world and putting their credit in danger of being ruined at home. If you’re being billed, it’s suggested in the article that you call your Congressperson. Incredible.

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