Thousands of U.S.-Bought Weapons Lost in Iraq
The U.S. military can't account for thousands of weapons purchased to arm some 325,500 Iraqi security forces by December, according to a new report. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that the U.S. military would beef up Iraqi forces' training. But the new data reveals weaknesses in the arming of Iraqi security forces.
Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction who provided the report to Sen. John Warner, says the Iraqi security forces lack the logistics personnel they need, including mechanics, supply clerks and medics.
And, he says, only a small percentage of the Iraqi weapons paid for by U.S. taxpayers are registered by their serial numbers. That means they could easily end up in the hands of insurgents.
From pistols, AK-47s, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the U.S. government has spent $133 million arming the Iraqi Army and the police.
But just 10,000 of the nearly 400,000 small arms were registered by their serial numbers, the inspector general's report says. Citing the "sensitivity of weapons accountability," Bowen wrote in his report that the disparity means there is no way to say who is using it.
That is a particular problem in Iraq, especially among a police force that has ties to the Shiite militia groups.
"We have a situation, we have no idea how many of the weapons we give to police are being confiscated by people who also work with militias," says Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst with the Brookings Institution. "And therefore [the weapons] wind up in the hands of people who are causing the problems in Iraq as opposed to solving the problems.
Bowen recommends that the U.S. military make sure all the weapons for Iraqi forces are registered.
In the report, the U.S. military command in Baghdad conceded it did not list the serial numbers of all weapons. Military officials say they kept records of which Iraqi Army and police units received weapons.
But the inspector general's report says even those records were questionable. The U.S. military did not account in those books for 13,000 pistols, 750 assault rifles and 500 machineguns that were bought with American money.
American military officials in Baghdad did not respond to questions from NPR.
Bowen says the Iraqi logistics effort is quote "severely undermanned." The Iraqis have less than half the medics that are required. The Iraqi supply depot north of Baghdad has just 28 percent of the nearly 1,300 personnel it needs.
The inspector general's report says it could take at least several years before Iraq has the trained mechanics and supply personnel.
For now Iraqi logistics are being handled by both the American military and contractors paid for by the United States. A $247 million contract is set to expire in March; it will likely have to be extended, the inspector general says.
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