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Afghanistan may have lost track of more than 200,000 weapons

Afghan soldiers stand guard at the site of a suicide car bombing in Jalalabad province in March. (Parwiz/Reuters)

Since 2004, the United States has supplied the fledgling Afghan Nation Security Forces with everything from uniforms to transport aircraft, but a new inspector general report finds that officials might have lost track of more than 43 percent of the 474,823 small arms supplied to the ANSF.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction compared two information systems that track weapons transfers from the United Sates to Afghanistan and found major discrepancies between the two, according to a report released Monday.

The first system, the Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP), is used by the Department of Defense to track the shipment of weapons from the United States to the ANSF. The second system, Operation Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD), tracks the receipt of the weapons in Afghanistan.

Both SCIP and OVERLORD require manual data entry and are not linked together, so when SIGAR reviewed both systems, it found that some weapon serial numbers were not only duplicated, but were incomplete or did not match each another. Both OVERLORD and SCIP contained more than 50,000 serial numbers with no shipping or receiving dates.

As well as inspecting the records of SCIP and OVERLORD, SIGAR audited the book-keeping of a number of Afghan supply depots.

At the Afghan army’s Central Supply Depot, the inspector general found that 551 of 4,388 weapons listed in an inventory record, or “property book,” did not match a physical count of the inventory. Among the weapons documented but not present: 24 M2 .50 caliber heavy machine guns and 24 bolt action M48 sniper rifles.

The inventory provided only the total count for certain weapon types and not individual serial numbers. A U.S. military armory, by contrast, not only requires serial numbers for every weapon on site but the serial numbers for every accessory that might be attached to that weapon, including scopes and night-vision devices.

One audit by SIGAR, at the 1st Afghan National Civil Order Police Garrison, yielded only a partial handwritten list of serial numbers for a number of Kalashnikovs.

Aside from record mismanagement and the the apparent loss of countless small arms, the SIGAR report also found that the ANSF has more weapons than are actually called for by the Afghan government’s official list of requirements for the security forces.

That list, known as the Tashkil, originally called for both NATO-standard weapons, like the M-16, and NATO non-standard weapons, like the AK-47. After 2010, however, the Afghan Defense Ministry decided that using only NATO standard weapons would be more beneficial due to supply and maintenance concerns.

This shift in requirements has left the ANSF with a surplus of more than 83,000 AK-47s, 9,000 RPK light machine guns and 5,000 GP-25 under barrel grenade launchers.

In response the SIGAR report, a top Pentagon official did not dispute the findings but said that an effort to reconcile the two weapons-tracking systems was ongoing. The United States, said Michael Dumont, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, does not have the authority to recover or destroy any excess Afghan weapons but can help the Afghans determine “disposition options.”

“DoD will remain engaged in addressing these critical weapons accountability issues as we continue to train, advise and assist the ASNF in the years to come,” Dumont said.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a staff writer and a former Marine infantryman.

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