US military failed to keep track of "vast amounts" of weapons in Iraq

Amnesty International has warned that lax record keeping has seen American weapons falling into terrorist hands

US military failed to keep track of "vast amounts" of weapons in Iraq

An Iraqi Special Forces convoy heads to the front line in Mosul, Iraq, 23-02-2017. Image: Ssgt. Alex Manne/Zuma Press/PA Images

The US military failed to keep track of more than $1bn (€890m) worth of arms and military equipment sent to Iraq and Kuwait according to a government audit.

The now-declassified Department of Defence (DoD) audit was obtained by Amnesty International following Freedom of Information requests.

The audit, undertaken in September 2016, revealed that the military “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of vast amounts of equipment pouring into the region to support the Iraqi Army.

The military transfers came under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF), and include tens of thousands of assault rifles, hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles.

The audit found serious shortcomings in the procedures for logging and monitoring equipment including:

  • Fragmentary record-keeping in arms depots in Kuwait and Iraq, with key information logged across multiple spreadsheets and 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.

Amnesty has warned that a previous DoD audit uncovered even laxer stockpile monitoring procedures followed by the Iraqi armed forces.

It said the Iraqi army was often 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.

Arming ISIS

The human rights group warned that these lax controls and record keeping has resulted in arms manufactured in the USA and other countries winding up in the hands of armed groups known to be committing war crimes and other atrocities – including ISIS.

“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’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.”

In response to the audit, the US military has pledged to tighten up its systems for tracking and monitoring future transfers to Iraq – however the DoD made almost identical commitments in response to a report for the US Congress as long ago as 2007.

Reckless

Mr Wilcken warned that “any fragilities” along the arms transfer chain greatly increase the risk of weapons falling into the hands of armed groups who have “wrought havoc and caused immense human suffering” in the region. 

“Sending millions of dollars’ worth of arms into a black hole and hoping for the best is not a viable counter-terrorism strategy,” he said. “It is just reckless.”

“Any state selling arms to Iraq must show that there are strict measures in place to make sure the weapons will not be used to violate rights. Without these safeguards, no transfer should take place.”

659,000 people were internally displaced by conflict in Iraq last year according to a report released on Tuesday by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

The report found that 31 million people were displaced within their own country as a result of conflict, violence and disasters in 2016 – a figure which equates to one person every second.