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Millions worth of weapons missing

Hillary Wicai Oct 30, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Fielding an army is, on the face of it, a pretty simple concept. Fighting men and women. And their weapons. You’d figure keeping track of both would be a common-sense thing to do. But U.S. military forces in Baghdad admit they can’t track almost half a million weapons meant to go to Iraqi security forces. Marketplace’s Hillary Wicai reports.

HILLARY WICAI: The report is the latest in a series that shows a war that’s not exactly going by the books. The U.S. military didn’t provide spare parts nor manuals for most of the 370,000 weapons looked at by the inspectors. These are weapons purchased by the U.S. with taxpayer money for Iraqi soldiers. But in the course of looking into that, inspectors realized something worse: almost none of the serial numbers for the weapons had been recorded. Jim Mitchell is a spokesman for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:

JIM MITCHELL:“It’s troubling because there were not systems in place to maintain the accountability of the weapons.”

And some of those weapons are now missing in action. About 14,000 machine guns, assault rifles and 9-millimeter pistols can’t be accounted for. That’s about $5 million in weapons gone. And according to the report, logging serial numbers is normal operating procedure.

MITCHELL:“There is a system in place to track weapons within the Department of Defense. It was the belief of the people who were managing these weapons in Iraq that because they were issued to Iraqi forces that they didn’t have to track the serial numbers.”

Defense analyst John Pike with GlobalSecurity.org says the numbers of weapons aren’t huge, but the result is still troubling.

JOHN PIKE:“Well, you know that some of these weapons are going to wind up in the wrong hands, either going to be used as part of the militia violence, maybe even used against Americans.”

In a written response to the report, the Defense Department mostly agreed with its conclusion. Defense officials now say they will create a registry for arms delivered to Iraqi forces.

In Washington, I’m Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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