Lightning Strikes Twice

U.S. forces are having difficulty accounting for weapons. Thousands of weapons. And get this — they had a very similar problem in 2007.

The GAO recently reported the U.S. might have lost 87,000 of the 242,000 arms meant for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Machine guns, AK-47s, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers might have found their way into Taliban arsenals. Or not. No one really knows. To add to this tale of woe, the GAO found no “reliable records” indicating the fates of 135,000 weapons donated by NATO nations for the ANSF, so they (the weapons) might be missing, too. This potentially gives hostile forces in Afghanistan quite an arsenal — much of it paid for with U.S. tax dollars.

Flashback to 2007: the GAO found that from 2004-05, 190,000 AK-47 rifles and pistols vanished — one-third of the weapons issued by the U.S. But this time the intended recipient was Iraq. The culprit: a lack of accountability.

Call it weapons déjà vu. Both large-scale incidents reported by the GAO have been within the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, and both have involved flawed accountability procedures. Losses ran about one-third in each case for arms meant for the host nation. Does lightning strike twice? (Does the postman always ring twice?) While training the Iraqis and Afghans and fighting the bad guys has been paramount, we would think not arming hostiles would be an important task. It’s like taking out a few a poppy fields or bad-guy teams while handing out weapons to the very happy guys at the back of the truck.

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