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Afghanistan Security: Lack of Systematic Tracking Raises Significant Accountability Concerns about Weapons Provided to Afghan National Security Forces.

GAO-09-267 January 30, 2009

The Department of Defense (Defense), through its Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) and with the Department of State (State), directs international efforts to train and equip Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). As part of these efforts, the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC) and the Navy spent about $120 million to procure small arms and light weapons for ANSF. International donors also provided weapons. GAO analyzed whether Defense can account for these weapons and ensure ANSF can safeguard and account for them. GAO reviewed Defense and State documents on accountability procedures, reviewed contractor reports on ANSF training, met with U.S. and Afghan officials, observed accountability practices, analyzed inventory records, and attempted to locate a random sample of weapons.

Defense did not establishclear guidance for U.S. personnel to follow when obtaining, transporting, and storing weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces, resulting in significant lapses in accountability. While Defense has accountability requirements for its own weapons, including serial number tracking and routine inventories, it did not clearly specify whether they applied to ANSF weapons under U.S. control. GAO estimates USASAC and CSTC-A did not maintain complete records for about 87,000, or 36 percent, of the 242,000 U.S.-procured weapons shipped to Afghanistan. For about 46,000 weapons, USASAC could not provide serial numbers, and GAO estimates CSTC-A did not maintain records on the location or disposition of about 41,000 weapons with recorded serial numbers. CSTC-A also did not maintain reliable records for about 135,000 weapons it obtained for ANSF from 21 other countries. Accountability lapses occurred throughout the supply chain and were primarily due to a lack of clear direction and staffing shortages. During our review, CSTC-A began correcting some shortcomings, but indicated that its continuation of these efforts depends on staffing and other factors. Despite CSTC-A's training efforts, ANSF units cannot fully safeguard and account for weapons and sensitive equipment. Defense and State have deployed hundreds of trainers and mentors to help ANSF establish accountability practices. CSTC-A's policy is not to issue equipment without verifying that appropriate supply and accountability procedures are in place. Although CSTC-A has not consistently assessed ANSF units' ability to account for weapons, mentors have reported major accountability weaknesses, which CSTC-A officials and mentors attribute to a variety of cultural and institutional problems, including illiteracy, corruption, and unclear guidance. Further, CSTC-A did not begin monitoring the end use of sensitive night vision devices until 15 months after issuing them to Afghan National Army units.

Recommendations

Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Implemented" or "Not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Charles M. Johnson Jr Team: Government Accountability Office: International Affairs and Trade Phone: (202) 512-7331

Recommendations for Executive Action

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Recommendation: To help ensure that the United States can account for weapons that it procures or receives from international donors for ANSF, the Secretary of Defense should establish clear accountability procedures for weapons in the control and custody of the United States, and direct USASAC, CSTC-A, and other military organizations involved in providing these weapons to (1) track all weapons by serial number and (2) conduct routine physical inventories.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: To help ensure that ANSF units can safeguard and account for weapons and other sensitive equipment they receive from the United States and international donors, the Secretary of Defense should direct CSTC-A to (1) specifically and systematically assess the ability of each ANSF unit to safeguard and account for weapons in accordance with Afghan ministerial decrees and (2) explicitly verify that adequate safeguards and accountability procedures are in place, prior to providing weapons to ANSF units, unless a specific waiver or exception is granted based on due consideration of practicality, cost, and mission performance.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should devote the necessary resources to address the staffing shortages that hamper CSTC-A's efforts to train, mentor, and assess ANSF in equipment accountability matters.

Agency Affected: Department of Defense

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Words:750
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