WASHINGTON - The Pentagon cannot account for 190,000 AK-47 rifles and pistols
given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, or about half the weapons
earmarked for soldiers and police, according to a government report.
The Government Accountability
Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress, said in a July 31 report to
lawmakers that the Defense Department also cannot account for 135,000 items of
body armor and 115,000 helmets reported to be issued to Iraqi forces as of
September 22, 2005.
US and Iraqi soldiers take a break during a joint patrol in
Baghdad, August 2, 2007. The Pentagon cannot account for 190,000 AK-47
rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, or
about half the weapons earmarked for soldiers and police, according to a
government report. [Reuters]
The GAO said the Pentagon concurred with its findings and has begun a review
to ensure full accountability for the program to train and equip Iraqi forces.
"However, our review of the 2007 property books found continuing problems
with missing and incomplete records," the GAO report said.
The report raised concerns that weapons provided by the United States could
be falling into the hands of Iraqi insurgents, just as lawmakers and
policymakers in Washington await a September report on the success of US
President George W. Bush's surge strategy for stabilizing Baghdad.
One senior Pentagon official told The Washington Post some weapons probably
were being used against US troops. He said an Iraqi brigade created in Fallujah
disintegrated in 2004 and began fighting American soldiers.
Many in Washington view the development of effective Iraqi army and police
forces as a vital step toward reducing the number of US troops in Iraq.
Since 2003, the United States has provided about $19.2 billion to develop
Iraqi security forces, the GAO said. The Defense Department has recently asked
for another $2 billion to continue the train-and-equip program.
Congress funded the program for Iraqi security forces outside traditional
security assistance programs, providing the Pentagon with a large degree of
flexibility in managing the effort, the GAO said.
"Officials stated that since the funding did not go through traditional
security assistance programs, the DOD accountability requirements normally
applicable to these programs did not apply," the GAO report said.
Military officials in Iraq reported issuing 355,000 weapons to Iraqi security
forces from June 2004 through September 2005, including 185,000 rifles and
170,000 pistols, the GAO said.
But the Defense Department could not account for 110,000 rifles and 80,000
pistols, the GAO said. Those sums amount to about 54 percent of the total
weapons distributed to the Iraqi forces.
The GAO quoted officials as saying the agency responsible for handling
weapons distribution was too short-staffed to record information on individual
items given to Iraqi forces.
Accountability procedures also could not be fully implemented because of the
need to equip Iraqi forces rapidly for combat operations, the GAO