U.S. Military Left 'Thousands' of Weapons 'Vulnerable to Loss or Theft' During Fight Against ISIS in Syria

A new Pentagon report revealed that U.S. forces failed to properly track or store hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons sent to American allies to support the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.

The Defense Department Inspector General report released Tuesday said officials with Special Operations Joint Task Force–Operation Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-OIR) and the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) did not properly account for $715 million in arms earmarked for Syrian forces fighting ISIS.

This may have resulted in gear damage and duplicate weapons purchases, inflating the operation's spending figures. The Pentagon noted that thousands of weapons were also left "vulnerable to loss or theft." Inadequate accounting meant officials could not say if any arms had been lost or stolen.

SOJTF-OIR oversees the the "day-to-day operations" of the Counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Train and Equip Fund (CTEF), deciding which weapons and equipment local allies require, The Military Times explained. These include the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) that bore the brunt of anti-ISIS operations.

The 1st TSC oversees storage of these weapons at a warehouse in Kuwait and their movement to other warehouses closer to the Syrian border.

The report says that SOJTF-OIR personnel "did not divest or dispose" of equipment received, leading to overcrowding at the Kuwait storage facility. This meant officials had to resort to using outside shipping containers to house the overflow, exposing equipment and weapons to harsh conditions which resulted in rusting and other damage.

Almost 4,100 weapons—including grenade launchers and machine guns—were among the equipment left in shipping containers.

The report explained that the lack of inventory records meant there was no way to stop duplicate orders, "risking unnecessary spending of CTEF-Syria funds and further overcrowding" at the Kuwait storage facility, forcing more gear into the inadequate shipping containers.

A new share drive will be organized between SOJTF-OIR and 1st TSC to centralize the equipment list, the report explained. All unserviceable gear and weapons will also be disposed to open further warehouse space.

The $715 million detailed in the Pentagon report was part of the $930 million in CTEF equipment requested by the Defense Department for 2017-18. The department requested $173 million to cover equipment for Syrian allies for fiscal year 2020.

American weapons were spread across the Middle East during the rise of ISIS in 2014, as fighters seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. ISIS fighters raided armories and collected American weapons left behind by retreating Iraqi security forces. Some of these arms also found their way into the hands of Al-Qaeda fighters, with whom ISIS militants were allied for a time.

SDF, Syria, weapons, US, ISIS, lost, stolen
This file photo shows members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in a building in Raqqa, Syria on October 16, 2017. BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images/Getty