Sometimes I lose track of my keys. It’s the worst. But I know that ignoring the problem puts me and my family at risk (not to mention keeps us from getting to the grocery store), so I keep looking until I find them.
The Pentagon is a massive organization filled with intelligence agents, officers, soldiers, analysts, tired bureaucrats, and incompetent interns (I assume—who doesn’t have incompetent interns these days?). These folks sometimes make mistakes and, like me, lose track of stuff.
But an April report from the New York Times suggests that the Pentagon’s record-keeping problems go way beyond a few misplaced pieces of equipment.
The Times describes how a lobbying group in London called Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) gained access to Department of Defense records to determine exactly how many small arms the United States had shipped to Iraqi and Afghan forces.
They found a total of 1,452,622 weapons, ranging from AK-47s to pistols to sniper rifles. Here’s a helpful summary from Zero Hedge:
- 692,439 were listed as assault rifles – not including AK47s (491,474 for Iraq, 200,965 for Afghanistan)
- 285,981 were listed as AK47s (95,981 for Afghanistan and 190,000 for Iraq)
- 266,272 were listed as pistols (176,983 for Iraq, 89,289 for Afghanistan)
- 111,844 were listed as machine guns (54,099 for Iraq, 57,745 for Afghanistan)
- 13,604 were listed as shotguns (346 for Iraq, 13,258 for Afghanistan)
- 11,475 were listed as sniper rifles (2,248 for Iraq, 9,227 for Afghanistan)
- For Afghanistan there were also 36,575 unspecified rifles listed and 288 unspecified non-standard small arms listed; for Iraq there were 34,432 unspecified rifles listed.
Five months later the AOAV received a response from the DOD in which they included their own list of small arms sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Here are those charts from the DOD:
Check out those totals. The DOD was only able to account for 48 percent of the weapons identified by a London-based private organization using government documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
The Pentagon’s excuse?
“Speed was essential in getting those nations’ security forces armed, equipped and trained to meet these extreme challenges,” Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times. “As a result, lapses in accountability of some of the weapons transferred occurred.”
Now those unaccounted weapons are showing up on Facebook pages in the Middle East, ready for use by the next extremist with the appropriate amount of cold hard cash.
I don’t want to rag on the Pentagon too much. I have no idea how difficult it is to coordinate our activities in the Middle East, and members of our military can’t always control what allies do with the weapons we give them.
But it isn’t just that the Pentagon loses the weapons once they arrive in Iraq—they don’t appear to have any record of shipping the weapons in the first place. I don’t know the extent of the damage this has caused, but it seems likely that the DOD’s inability to track their own weapons has helped to arm our enemies and put American lives at risk.