U.S. military officials have lost track of at least 110,000 AK-47 rifles and 80,000 pistols sent to help Iraqi security forces fight insurgents, according to a federal report.
In a July 31 report to lawmakers, the Government Accountability Office revealed that its analysis of Defense Department and Multinational Force-Iraq records showed at least 190,000 weapons issued from June 2004 through December 2005 are missing.
The GAO, Congress' investigative arm, also said protective gear for Iraqi police and security forces cannot be accounted for. The analysis of Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq property records showed that 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets are also missing, the report said.
"DOD and MNF-I cannot ensure that Iraqi security forces received the equipment as intended," the report stated.
The GAO findings come as lawmakers await a report from Gen. David Petraeus on whether President Bush's surge of troops has curbed the violence in Baghdad. The report also raises concerns about whether U.S.-funded weapons are being used against coalition forces. Petraeus is scheduled to report to Congress on the impact of the surge in September.
The U.S. has provided about $19.2 billion in aid to build up the Iraqi security forces since 2003. That includes at least $2.8 billion to buy and transport equipment to Iraq, but the GAO report said weapons distribution and record keeping failed to follow established procedures.
The GAO report said two factors led to the problem. First, the MST Command in Iraq did not maintain a centralized record of all equipment distributed to Iraqi forces before December 2005. In addition, the command was not consistent in collecting supporting documents to confirm when equipment was received, how much was delivered and to what Iraqi unit it was ultimately given.
To keep track of equipment in the future, the GAO recommended that Defense Secretary Robert Gates define accountability procedures for the program to train and equip Iraqi security forces.
The report also said Gates should ensure that there is enough staff, an adequate distribution network and proper technology to make certain accountability procedures are followed.
Mark Kimmitt, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, agreed that improvements are needed to ensure that U.S.-funded equipment reaches Iraqi security forces.
"Steps are being taken to incorporate features fully into a proper accountability system," Kimmitt wrote in an appendix to the report. "Such measures include implementing increased monitoring, issuance of standing operating procedures, introduction of suitable automated tools and collaboration with other DOD organizations on accountability-related issues.
The GAO report also said that the command has improved its record keeping since June 2006, but it noted that some records are still missing or incomplete.