A Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) audit found that “poor record keeping” has resulted in a sea of unaccounted weapons given to Afghan forces by the U.S. government.
Thanks to Pentagon efforts to train and supply the Afghan National Security Forces, the country’s military is now swimming in some $624 million in military equipment provided since 2004, including more than 747,000 weapons and pieces of auxiliary equipment. The total includes 465,000 small arms, such as AKs and M16s.
However, inventory inspections at depots found missing weapons and more weapons than the military needed, increasing the likelihood that U.S.-provided arms would fall into the hands of the Taliban and other jihadists.
The Defense Department uses two systems to track the weapons: the Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP), which tracks the exporting end, and the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD), which tracks the receipt of weapons in Afghanistan.
“Errors and discrepancies often occur because these two systems are not linked to each other and require manual data entry. When SIGAR compared the data in the two systems, it found that the databases did not always match; some records were duplicated, and some records were incomplete,” states the report.
“Of the 474,823 total serial numbers recorded in OVERLORD, 43 percent, or 203,888 weapons, had missing information and/or duplication,” auditors found. “24,520 serial numbers in OVERLORD and 22,806 weapon serial numbers in SCIP were repeated two or three times, meaning that there are duplicate records of weapons shipped and received. OVERLORD contained 50,304 serial numbers with no shipping or receiving dates, and SCIP contained 59,938 serial numbers with no shipping or receiving dates.”
At a Kandahar training center SIGAR auditors couldn’t even get a complete inventory report, while at the Central Supply Deport for the ANSF they found that 551 weapons on the books were not reflected in a hand count of inventory.
Investigators also found that their stock was more than 112,000 weapons over what was needed.
“For example, the ANA has 83,184 more AK-47s than needed because, prior to 2010, DOD issued both NATO-standard weapons, such as M-16s, and non-standard weapons, such as AK-47s. After 2010, DOD and the Afghan Ministry of Defense determined that interoperability and logistics would be enhanced if the ANA used only NATO standard weapons. Subsequently, the requirement was changed. However, no provision was made to return or destroy non-standard weapons, such as AK-47s, that were no longer needed. DOD officials told SIGAR that they do not currently have the authority to recapture or remove weapons that have already been provided to the ANSF,” states the report.
“This issue will be compounded as the number of ANSF personnel decreases to lower levels in the coming years. Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, SIGAR is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to Afghan civilians and the ANSF.”
SIGAR recommended that the OVERLORD and SCIP systems be reconciled within six months, that commanders work with the Afghans to complete a 100 percent inventory check, and that the Pentagon work on a plan to recover or destroy excess arms in the hands of the Afghans.
In commenting on a draft of the report, “DOD concurred with SIGAR’s first recommendation and partially concurred with the second and third recommendations.” Specifically, the Defense Department said it doesn’t have the authority to direct Afghan forces to complete the inventory, and that it’s the Afghan government’s responsibility to decided if they have too many weapons.
The 2010 defense bill required that the Pentagon “establish a program for registering and monitoring the use of weapons transferred to the ANSF.”
“The lack of adherence to these procedures, along with the lack of reliable weapons inventories, limits monitoring of weapons under Afghan control and reduces the ability to identify missing and unaccounted for weapons that could be used by insurgents to harm U.S., coalition, and ANSF personnel,” says the audit.
“The scheduled reduction in ANSF personnel to 228,500 by 2017 is likely to result in an even greater number of excess weapons. Yet, DOD continues to provide ANSF with weapons based on the ANSF force strength of 352,000 and has no plans to stop providing weapons to the ANSF. 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 ANSF, and Afghan civilians.”