The Afghan Military’s Tracking of U.S.-Supplied Weapons Is Sloppy at Best

Crates of weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces. Crates of weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

Hundreds of thousands of U.S.-made machine guns, rifles and pistols supplied to the Afghan National Security Forces have been sloppily inventoried, raising the risk that some could end up in enemy hands, a watchdog reported Monday.

The Defense Department over the past decade-plus has provided more than 747,000 weapons and pieces of auxiliary equipment valued at $626 million, according to the report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

“Controls over the accountability of small arms provided to the ANSF are insufficient both before and after the weapons are transferred,” Inspector General John Sopko said in an audit report to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and U.S. commanders in Kabul. The Afghan military’s “record-keeping and inventory processes are poor,” auditors said after inspections at supply depots showed missing weapons. “More than 112,000 weapons provided to the ANSF exceed requirements and the scheduled reduction in ANSF personnel by 2017 is likely to result even greater excess weapons,” SIGAR said in a statement.

Of the 474,823 total serial numbers recorded, 43 percent, or 203,888 weapons, had missing information and/or duplication, the report said. Still other serial numbers were repeated, and some records lacked shipping and receiving dates.

The Afghan National Police “currently has no standardized or automated system to account for weapons,” the audit noted, relying instead on hand-written paper and some Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, auditors said. Efforts to automate have been “hindered by the lack of basic education or skills among ANSF personnel and frequent turnover of Afghan staff.”

SIGAR recommended a “full reconciliation” to correct errors within six months, along with a full inventory check to either recover or destroy excess U.S.-led coalition-provided weapons.

The Pentagon mostly accepted the recommendations, though it noted that it has no authority under the law to recover or destroy Afghan weapons to prevent their capture.

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