The United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in a new report, notes that “747,000 weapons and auxiliary equipment” given to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) are unaccounted for. The United States has been training and supporting the ANSF to foster self-sufficiency in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. The ANSF will take over Afghanistan’s precarious internal security situation once the United States and NATO withdraw from the country at the end of this year. Weapons supplies from the U.S. to the ANSF are one of the main ways in which the United States supports the development of the ANSF. According to SIGAR, the unaccounted weapons “are valued at approximately $626 million.”
Among the unaccounted for arms are rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, and shotguns. 465,000 of these small arms are missing according to the SIGAR report. The report additionally finds that the DoD’s ledger systems for recording weapon shipments to Afghanistan have major errors and discrepancies.
The Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP) and the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD), two systems used by the DoD to keep track of weapon shipments to Afghanistan, were found to have major errors and discrepancies. For example, 43 percent of serial numbers in the OVERLORD system had “missing information and/or duplication.”
Other serial numbers were recorded multiple times and some had no shipping or receiving dates attached to them. In 2010, the DoD was required to implement a weapons registration program for all small arms transferred to the ANSF. According to the SIGAR audit, the poor management of serial number data has seriously impaired U.S. efforts to keep track of where these weapons are ending up in Afghanistan.
SIGAR notes that the weapons could eventually find their way, or have already found their way, into the hands of insurgents hostile to the Afghan government, including the Taliban: “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 problem is further compounded by poor record-keeping practices within the ANSF. Received shipments are not accounted for and the ANSF’s inventory remains somewhat ambiguous.