KABUL — Neither the American military nor the Afghan government can keep track of hundreds of thousands of weapons provided to Afghan security forces, sparking fears that some could land in the hands of insurgents or terrorist groups, according to a U.S. watchdog.
Of the nearly half a million weapons registered in a U.S. Department of Defense database called OVERLORD, more than 40 percent of the entries had missing or duplicated information, investigators with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report released on Monday.
Another U.S. government inventory database had similarly incomplete information, the report found.
Since 2004 the United States has provided Afghan security forces with more than 700,000 weapons and auxiliary equipment worth about $626 million, SIGAR said. Now however, inconsistencies in the methods used by both the U.S. and Afghanistan to track those weapons have left potentially tens of thousands of weapons unaccounted for.
“Accountability over these weapons within DOD prior to their transfer to Afghan ownership is affected by incompatible inventory systems that have missing serial numbers, inaccurate shipping and receiving dates, and duplicate records, that may result in missing weapons prior to transfer to the ANSF,” investigators concluded. “However, the problems are far more severe after the weapons are transferred to the ANSF. ANSF record-keeping and inventory processes are poor and, in many cases, we were unable to conduct even basic inventory testing at the ANSF facilities we visited.”
As an example, SIGAR noted that the Afghan National Army has 83,184 more AK-47 assault rifles than it needs. The Russian-designed rifles were phased put in favor of NATO weapons to ensure compatibility, but the excess guns were never disposed of, and the Defense Department told SIGAR investigators it doesn’t have the authority to do anything about it.
That issue of excess weapons will only be exacerbated by the planned reduction in the number of Afghan forces, SIGAR argued.
“Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, SIGAR is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to Afghan civilians and the ANSF,” the report concluded.
SIGAR recommended that the Defense Department patch the holes in its databases, and work with the Afghan government to try to recover the extra weapons, including by requiring the Afghans to conduct a comprehensive inventory check.
In written responses to the SIGAR report, Defense officials said they are already in the process of combing their two databases into one. They said they are working to make future delivery of weapons contingent on regular inventory check, but that it’s up to the Afghan government to determine how many weapons it needs and what to do with them.
“It is the Afghan government’s responsibility, not DOD’s, to determine if they have weapons in excess of their needs,” Defense officials wrote. “It is premature to speculate on potential ANSF force strength reductions. Weapons that are transferred to the ANSF become property of the Afghan government and under its control.”