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American officials have lost track of tens of thousands of weapons intended for Afghan security forces, with some of the weapons heading to the Taliban, according to a government audit released Thursday.

A Government Accountability Office audit found that inventory controls were lacking for around 87,000 of the 242,000 U.S.-procured weapons given to Afghan forces between 2004 and 2008.

Additionally, reliable records were not kept for around 135,000 weapons donated from other NATO countries.

Afghan forces "cannot fully safeguard and account for weapons. As a result, weapons [the U.S. military] has provided to [Afghan National Security Forces] are at serious risk of theft or loss," the GAO said.

The audit raises concerns about accountability, with a major push in training of Afghan forces as part of a refined war strategy.

The findings were presented Thursday to a House panel.

A member of that panel, Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., said in a written statement that he worried militants could be fighting U.S. troops with weapons bought by U.S. taxpayers.

"That’s what we risk if we were to have tens of thousands of weapons we provided washing around Afghanistan, off the books," he wrote, according to The Washington Post.

The audit echoes a similar GAO report from 2007 detailing how at least 190,000 AK-47s and pistols intended for Iraqi forces could not be accounted for.

Since 2002, the U.S. government has given Afghanistan around $16.5 billion for training and equipping security forces. At least $5.7 billion has been requested for fiscal year 2009. According to the GAO, the U.S. has purchased $120 million worth of weapons for Afghanistan since December 2004.

The weapons donated by other NATO countries were valued at around $103 million.

According to the GAO, there were breakdowns at all levels of the supply chain.

"Defense did not provide clear guidance to U.S. personnel as to what accountability procedures applied when handling, transporting, and storing weapons obtained for the ANSF, resulting in significant lapses in accountability for these weapons," the audit reads.

Local training commands in Afghanistan did not maintain complete inventory records, did not record serial numbers in many cases, and did not have complete information about the "location or disposition" of weapons.

According to the auditors, U.S. officials also did not monitor the "end use" of night vision devices given to the Afghan forces until around 15 months after issuing them.

The report was written by a GAO team that visited Afghanistan last August and attempted to track the weapons.

GAO officials said the military had begun attempting to correct the problems shortly before the auditors went to Afghanistan.


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