By Marguerite Ward
Many of the 747,000 weapons the U.S. Department of Defense has given to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have not been properly labeled or accounted for, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The widespread mislabeling, duplicate labeling, and rudimentary tracking of weapons means that insurgents could easily get a hold of guns or other weapons.
The value of the 747,000 weapons, including AK-47s and M-16s, is estimated at $626 million.
The most troubling statistic was the following: a review of 474,823 weapon serial numbers from one U.S. database found that 43%, or 203,888 weapons, had missing information or duplicate serial numbers.
The SIGAR report found that the systems used to track the whereabouts and information of U.S. weapons to Afghanistan are grossly inadequate, at least in their current form. The U.S. Department of Defense uses two systems to keep track of the weapons it gives to the Afghanistan. One is The Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP), which tracks the shipment of weapons leaving the U.S. The other is the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD), which tracks the receipt of these weapons in Afghanistan.
A comparison of the two systems revealed a troubling trend—the information from the two systems systematically does not always match up. This is because the two systems are not automatically linked to each other, and manual entering has created a slew of errors.
To track the whereabouts of weapons in its inventory, the Afghanistan National Police (ANP) uses a combination of hard copy documents, handwritten records, and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets—an imperfect system that could have costly consequences.
Besides not being able to account for many weapons, SIGAR found that the U.S. Department of Defense has been sending too many guns to Afghanistan. Changes in weapon requirements or the number of security personelle in Afghanistan have reduced the demand for certain types of guns. Now, excess weapons sit in improperly managed storage facilities.
The report recommends that the Commanding General (CTC-A) correct any errors between the two systems within six months, complete a complete inventory check of all weapons, and determine what should be done to destroy excess weapons.
SIGAR had previously raised concerns over the ANP's tracking system in 2008.
Marguerite Ward is the online news editor at World Policy Journal.
[Photos courtesy of SIGAR]