Small Arms, Big Problem

Apparently, we’re missing a lot of guns in Afghanistan and have no idea where they are:

“We’re not talking just handguns and M-16s and AK-47s,” [John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction] told TIME correspondents over lunch on Friday. “We’re talking some high-powered stuff — grenade launchers, RPGs, machine guns — anything that one person could use.” His new report says the U.S. recorded improperly, or simply failed to record, the serial numbers of 43% of the nearly half-million small arms the U.S. has supplied Afghanistan over the past decade. Sloppy U.S. record keeping is compounded by Afghanistan’s indifference to the congressionally mandated U.S. oversight of the weapons’ whereabouts.

Dana Liebelson has more on the inspector general’s report:

According to SIGAR, the US is also supplying Afghanistan with too many weapons.

It estimates that the Afghan security forces have a surplus of over 80,000 AK-47s, 5,800 grenade launchers, and 2,500 Russian PKM machine guns. Defense Department officials told investigators they do not currently have the authority to repossess excess weapons, but they said that “DOD will remain engaged in addressing these critical weapons accountability issues.” The Pentagon did not respond to comment for Mother Jones.

SIGAR concludes that, without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for weapons, “there is a real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the ANSF, and Afghan civilians.” It’s certainly happened before—in 2009, the New York Times reported that “of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces.”