Small Arms Raising Concerns in Iraq
A pair of recent reports have raised concerns about the use and transfer of small arms in Iraq. A July 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the Department of Defense could not fully account for at least 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi forces between June 2004 and September 2005. A previous report in 2006 estimated that the Pentagon could not account for 14,000 small arms but hinted that the numbers could be much higher. The new total heightened concerns about the potential use of missing U.S. weapons against U.S. forces by insurgents or sectarian militias. (See ACT, December 2006.)
Shortly after release of the GAO report, the Associated Press reported that Italian officials investigating mafia activity had stopped an illegal arms shipment in February of more than 100,000 automatic weapons purportedly destined for Iraq’s Interior Ministry. The Iraqi middlemen involved in the deal claimed that it was proceeding with Iraqi and U.S. approval, but U.S. officials said Iraqi officials had not informed them of any such purchases.
Since 2003, the United States has provided about $19.2 billion to develop Iraqi security forces. The Defense Department recently requested an additional $2 billion to support these efforts. From June 2004 through September 2005, Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq reports showed that the U.S.-led coalition issued about 185,000 AK-47 rifles and 170,000 pistols to Iraqi security forces. Of these weapons, GAO analysis indicated that property book records could not fully account for 110,000 AK-47s and 80,000 pistols. An additional 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets also could not be fully tracked.
Congress funds the train-and-equip program outside of traditional security assistance programs, reportedly to allow for greater flexibility in accounting and implementation. As of July 2007, the GAO found that no specific accountability procedures had been determined and that property books were incomplete and inefficiently managed on spreadsheets. Mark Kimmitt, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, concurred with the report recommendations and wrote in an attached letter that “[s]teps are being taken to incorporate features fully into a proper accountability system.”
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