U.S. Army Lost Track of $1 Billion Worth of Weapons and Equipment: Report

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A member of the Iraqi army aims at Islamic State positions from a school building on the frontline during clashes northwest of Mosul, Iraq, on May 8. Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

The U.S. Army failed to properly monitor more than $1 billion worth of arms transfers in Iraq and Kuwait, according to a declassified government audit obtained by Amnesty International released Wednesday.

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“This audit provides a worrying insight into the U.S. Army’s flawed—and potentially dangerous—system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher, said in a statement.

Amnesty obtained the documents through Freedom of Information law requests. The group’s research documents lax controls and record-keeping within the Iraqi chain of command, which has resulted in arms manufactured in the U.S. and other countries winding up in the hands of armed groups known to be committing war crimes and other atrocities, such as the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

In response to the audit, the U.S. military has pledged to tighten its systems for tracking and monitoring future transfers to Iraq, according to Amnesty.

The U.S. Department of Defense audit from September 2016 shows that the DoD “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of equipment pouring into Iraq and Kuwait to supply the Iraqi Army in helping to degrade ISIS. The transfers included tens of thousands of assault rifles (worth $28 million), hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armored vehicles destined for use by the central Iraqi Army. In 2015, Congress devoted $1.6 billion to combating the advance of ISIS.

A previous DoD audit, in 2015, pointed to even less rigorous stockpile monitoring procedures being enforced by the Iraqi armed forces. In some cases, the Iraqi army was unaware of what was stored in its own warehouses, and some military equipment—which had never been inventoried—was stored out in the open in shipping containers.

Wilcken said it is vital that weapons and equipment be checked after delivery. “Any fragilities along the transfer chain,” he said, “greatly increase the risks of weapons going astray in a region where armed groups have wrought havoc and caused immense human suffering.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has overbilled the U.S. military for fuel by almost $6 billion over the past seven years, and then used the money to bolster underfunded or mismanaged defense programs, according to a report in The Washington Post on Saturday.

Earlier, the federal Government Accountability Office criticized the U.S. for failing to account for thousands of rifles issued to Afghan security forces. The 2009 report said some weapons were documented to be in the hands of insurgents, including during a July 2008 battle in which nine Americans died.