A Pentagon audit of nearly 750,000 weapons handed over by U.S. forces to Afghan soldiers and police found poor control and accountability of the arms and expressed concern that many could fall into the hands of militants.
The report, released Monday by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, cites insufficient record-keeping and inventory practices to ensure that the $626 million worth of small arms and artillery are used as intended.
About two-thirds of the weapons cache given to the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces were small arms, including rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns, the report says.
U.S. defense agencies are required by Congress to provide a detailed account of the transfer of weapons to Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF, as well as the Afghan procedures for keeping track of the weaponry and ensuring it isn't passed on to or stolen by insurgent forces such as the Taliban.
A 2009 Government Accountability Office audit of U.S. weapons provided to Afghanistan found a "serious risk of theft or loss due to the lack of complete inventory records for an estimated 36% of weapons procured and shipped to Afghanistan from 2004 through 2008," the report says.
Although it didn't give a corresponding figure for the share of weapons insufficiently controlled once delivered, the report, based on inspections at weapons depots in Kabul and Kandahar, makes clear that auditors remain deeply concerned about the handling of the weapons once turned over to the ANSF.
"At each facility, inventory testing was challenging due to the lack of reliable weapon inventories, time constraints, security conditions, disorganized weapon storage containers and the lack of access to portions of ANSF-controlled facilities," it says.
It notes that the 747,000 weapons provided to Afghan forces exceeds their armament needs by at least 112,000 and that the excess is likely to grow as the country's security forces scale back over the next three years to 228,500 from the current level of 352,000 police officers and soldiers.
The report also faults the Pentagon for failure to synchronize its arms inventory databases to provide a clear and detailed picture of what weapons have been transferred to the Afghan forces, which are now responsible for providing their own security after more than a decade of U.S.-led occupation.
The civilian defense auditing authority recommended that the Pentagon reconcile its two weapons inventory systems within six months, work with Afghan security officers to create 100% accounting of the weapons received from the United States, and recover or destroy those weapons deemed by both Kabul and Washington to be in excess of Afghan forces' needs.
U.S. forces are scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of the year, although discussions continue with the Afghan leadership about a residual force of as many as 10,000 U.S. troops.