Tags: NY Times | Analysis | US | Weapons | Lost | Middle East

NY Times Magazine Analysis: US Lost 700K Weapons in Middle East

Image: NY Times Magazine Analysis: US Lost 700K Weapons in Middle East

PFC Kevin Carrin with the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division keeps watch during patrol across barren foothills outside of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank to look for positions the enemy has used to send rockets onto the FOB on March 30, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 24 Aug 2016 12:04 PM

The Pentagon has provided 1.45 million firearms to security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11, but has records for only about 700,000 — and what guns the military lost track of often found their way onto black market arms bazaars, according to a New York Times Magazine analysis.

According to the Times, the bungled military accounting of its own weaponry was discovered in a a tally of 14 years' worth of Pentagon contract data on small arms for U.S. troops and their related partners by Iain Overton, a former BBC journalist who heads an anti-weapons proliferation group in London called Action on Armed Violence.

Overton found the Pentagon's 412 contracts during that period provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns.

The Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers' count — about 700,000 in all, the Times reports.

That "only accounts for 48 percent of the total small arms supplied by the U.S. government that can be found in open-source government reports," Overton tells the Times.

The Times report asked another researcher, Nic Marsh of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, to attempt the same tally using other sources, including export data from the European Union and American military inspector-general reports.

Marsh's count found official reported totals of more than 465,000 firearms provided by the Pentagon to Afghanistan since 2001, and at least another 628,000 firearms exported to Iraq from 2003 to 2014, according to the Times.

The differences "is one of many reasons to suspect that the 1.45 million tally might understate the real quantity of weapons disbursements during a long run of years when the Pentagon played the role in Afghanistan and Iraq of small-arms provider," the Times reports.

"It could be twice as much, as far as we know," Overton tells the Times.

The weapons didn't remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries, either, The Times reports.

For example, the Times reports, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq's security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war.

The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and theft, the Times notes.

"By this year, various internet arms traders, including many on Facebook, were hawking a seemingly unending assortment of weapons of obvious American origin," the Times reports, including an M4 offered by Hussein Mahyawi, whose sketchy Facebook profile — now taken down — suggested a background in interior design.

In April, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as arms bazaars, the Times reports — though "the trade goes on" at virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala.

According to the Times, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11.

"All together, the sheer size of the expenditures, the sustained confusion about totals and the multiple pressures eroding the stock combine to create a portrait of the Pentagon's bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other," the Times reports.

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright, in an email, tells the Times that "speed was essential in getting those nations' security forces armed, equipped and trained to meet these extreme challenges."

"As a result, lapses in accountability of some of the weapons transferred occurred," he said, adding current practices have improved, and that to ensure "that equipment is only used for authorized purposes," its representatives "inventory each weapon as it arrives in country and record the distribution of the weapon to the foreign partner nation."

Wright also said once a weapon is provided to another force, "It is their responsibility to account for that weapon."

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The Pentagon has provided 1.45 million firearms to security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11, but has records for only about 700,000 - and what guns the military lost track of often found their way onto black market arms bazaars, according to a New York Times...
NY Times, Analysis, US, Weapons, Lost, Middle East
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2016-04-24
Wednesday, 24 Aug 2016 12:04 PM
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