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'It is just reckless': US army lost track of $1bn worth of arms and military equipment in Middle East

An audit received by Amnesty International found failings in how equipment was logged and monitored.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

THE US ARMY failed to keep tabs on over $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment in Iraq and Kuwait, according to a Department of Defense audit.

The government audit was recently received by Amnesty International following freedom of information requests.

It revealed that the Department of Defense “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of a vast amount of equipment –  destined for the Iraqi Army – in the two Middle Eastern countries.

In 2015, the US Congress earmarked $1.6 billion for the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) to combat the advance of Isis.

The transfers included tens of thousands of assault rifles, hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US Army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s arms control and human rights researcher.

It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of US arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State.

The audit found several failings in how the equipment was logged and monitored from the point of delivery onward.

These include fragmentary record-keeping in arms depots in Kuwait and Iraq, including information logged across multiple spreadsheets, databases and on hand-written receipts.

Large quantities of equipment were manually entered into multiple spreadsheets and increased the risk of human error.

The audit also revealed incomplete records, meaning those responsible for the equipment were unable to track its location or status.

The audit also claimed that the Department of Defense did not have responsibility for tracking transfers immediately after delivery to the Iraqi authorities, despite the fact that the department’s Golden Sentry programme is mandated to carry out post-delivery checks.

In response, the US military has pledged to tighten up its systems for tracking and monitoring any future transfers to Iraq.

However, commitments were made by the Department of Defense in response to a report that raised similar concerns in 2007.

“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep re-occurring. This should be an urgent wake-up call for the US, and all countries supplying arms to Iraq, to urgently shore up checks and controls,” Wilcken said.

Sending millions of dollars’ worth of arms into a black hole and hoping for the best is not a viable counter-terrorism strategy; it is just reckless.

Even looser monitoring procedures followed by the Iraqi armed forces were found in another Department of Defense audit in 2015.

This audit found that, in some cases, the Iraqi army was unaware of what was stored in its own warehouses, while other military equipment – which had never been opened or inventoried – was stored out in the open in shipping containers.

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