A newly released declassified audit report from the US Department of Defense has revealed that negligent accounting by the military has resulted in the Pentagon not knowing what happened to more than $1 billion in arms and equipment meant for the Iraqi Army.
The Office of Inspector General for the Pentagon’s findings from September 2016 was made public as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from human rights group Amnesty International, according to RT.
Over $1 billion worth of arms and military equipment designated under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) and meant to assist the Iraqi government in combating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), was not accounted for, the DOD audit found.
Amnesty International reports that the military transfers came under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF), a linchpin of US-Iraqi security cooperation. In 2015, US Congress appropriated USD$1.6 billion for the program to combat the advance of IS.
The transfers, which include tens of thousands of assault rifles (worth USD$28 million), hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles, were destined for use by the central Iraqi Army, including the predominantly Shi’a Popular Mobilization Units, as well as the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
The DoD audit found several serious shortcomings in how ITEF equipment was logged and monitored from the point of delivery onward, including:
- Fragmentary record-keeping in arms depots in Kuwait and Iraq. Information logged across multiple spreadsheets, databases and even on hand-written receipts.
- Large quantities of equipment manually entered into multiple spreadsheets, increasing the risk of human error.
- Incomplete records meaning those responsible for the equipment were unable to ascertain its location or status.
The audit also claimed that the DoD did not have responsibility for tracking ITEF transfers immediately after delivery to the Iraqi authorities, despite the fact that the department’s Golden Sentry program is mandated to carry out post-delivery checks.
The Army’s 1st Theater Sustainment Command “did not have effective controls to maintain complete visibility and accountability of ITEF equipment in Kuwait and Iraq prior to transfer to the Government of Iraq,” the audit said.
“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,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher, said in the announcement on the group’s website.
The ITEF began as a $1.6 billion program, but last year, Congress appropriated $715 million more to it.
The transfers included, according to Amnesty, “tens of thousands of assault rifles worth $28 million, hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles” to the Iraqi Army, including the predominantly Shi’a Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
While the Pentagon promises to do better, that means little to Amnesty, which noted that the same sentiments were expressed to Congress in 2007 when similar concerns arose.
“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. 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,” Amnesty’s Wilcken said.
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