Wednesday, August 08, 2007

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Those missing guns in Iraq

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Those missing guns in Iraq
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: August 7, 2007

U.S. taxpayers are rightly prepared to pay for all the equipment American soldiers need to defend themselves in Iraq. What is harder to accept is that because of the Pentagon's scandalous mismanagement, they may have been paying to arm Iraqi insurgents who are shooting at American soldiers.

The Government Accountability Office reports that more than 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and another 80,000 pistols that Washington thought it was providing to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005 are now unaccounted for. More than 100,000 pieces of body armor and a similar number of helmets have also gone missing.

These numbers represent the discrepancy between the equipment ordered by the American commander in charge of training Iraqi forces and the equipment actually logged into the property records of those forces. Disturbingly, that commander was General David Petraeus, now the overall commander of American forces in Iraq.

The missing weapons amount to fully 30 percent of the weapons handed out by Washington to Iraqis through the start of this year. Some were presumably diverted into black market arms bazaars. Some almost certainly ended up in the hands of insurgent militias.

In the past, the State Department has managed these train-and-equip programs. In Iraq, the Pentagon insisted on taking charge, just as it insisted on taking charge of everything else - whether or not it had the competence to do so. Remember the arrogant sidelining of the State Department's experts, who had actually spent time thinking about how to manage a post-invasion Iraq? The result is one more failed policy that has put the lives of U.S. troops at even greater risk.

Overall, the United States has spent more than $19 billion trying to develop capable Iraqi security forces, with little to show in return. Last month's benchmarks report from the White House found only six Iraqi battalions able to operate without American support, four fewer than in March.

It is bad enough that Washington is now officially backing two of the opposing armies in the multisided civil war: the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad tied to sectarian militias and the Sunni militias fighting Al Qaeda in Anbar Province. How much worse if the Pentagon's ineptitude has been funneling AK-47s to insurgent fighters killing Americans on a daily basis.


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