Thousands of U.S. Weapons Provided to Afghan Forces Are Unaccounted For

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Afghan National Army soldiers (AP photo)

The United States’ now decade-plus of fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan may have been hampered by allowing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of weapons to go missing and possibly fall into enemy hands.


This possibility was reported this week by John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), whose office said many of the 747,000 weapons given to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) can’t be accounted for.


“U.S. and Coalition-provided weapons are at risk of theft, loss, or misuse,” the report (pdf) said.


“Weapons paid for by U.S. taxpayers could wind up in the hands of insurgents and be used to kill Americans and Afghan troops and civilians,” Sopko said.


The problem is poor recordkeeping on the part of the Americans and Afghans, according to the report. The Department of Defense has relied on two inventory systems to track the weapons, leading to duplication of records and other mistakes, it said.


Afghan officials often just don’t bother with taking inventory, making it easy for opportunists or Taliban supporters to steal weapons and sell them to insurgents. That’s particularly alarming since the U.S. gave Afghanistan’s military 83,000 more AK-47 assault rifles than necessary last year.


The problem of accounting for military hardware delivered to Afghanistan has gone on for some time. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported five years ago that more than one third of the 242,203 small arms and light weapons shipped to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police were not accounted for. The 87,000 missing weapons included AK-47s, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, shotguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the GAO said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

How Missing American Guns Might Be Fueling Terrorists In Afghanistan (by Will Freeman, Think Progress)

Afghan National Security Forces: Actions Needed to Improve Weapons Accountability (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) (pdf)

87,000 U.S. Weapons Missing in Afghanistan (AllGov)


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