Corrective Actions Are Needed to Address Serious Accountability Concerns about Weapons Provided to Afghan National Security Forces
Gao ID: GAO-09-366T February 12, 2009
This testimony discusses the GAO report on accountability for small arms and light weapons that the United States has obtained and provided or intends to provide to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)--the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. Given the unstable security conditions in Afghanistan, the risk of loss and theft of these weapons is significant, which makes this hearing particularly timely. This testimony today focuses on (1) the types and quantities of weapons the Department of Defense (Defense) has obtained for ANSF, (2) whether Defense can account for the weapons it obtained for ANSF, and (3) the extent to which ANSF can properly safeguard and account for its weapons and other sensitive equipment.
During fiscal years 2002 through 2008, the United States spent approximately $16.5 billion to train and equip the Afghan army and police forces in order to transfer responsibility for the security of Afghanistan from the international community to the Afghan government. As part of this effort, Defense--through the U.S. Army and Navy--purchased over 242,000 small arms and light weapons, at a cost of about $120 million. These weapons include rifles, pistols, shotguns, machine guns, mortars, and launchers for grenades, rockets, and missiles. In addition, CSTC-A has reported that 21 other countries provided about 135,000 weapons for ANSF between June 2002 and June 2008, which they have valued at about $103 million. This brings the total number of weapons Defense reported obtaining for ANSF to over 375,000. The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) in Kabul, which is a joint service, coalition organization under the command and control of Defense's U.S. Central Command is primarily responsible for training and equipping ANSF.3 As part of that responsibility, CSTC-A receives and stores weapons provided by the United States and other international donors and distributes them to ANSF units. In addition, CSTC-A is responsible for monitoring the use of U.S.-procured weapons and other sensitive equipment.
GAO-09-366T, Afghanistan Security: Corrective Actions Are Needed to Address Serious Accountability Concerns about Weapons Provided to Afghan National Security Forces
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United States Government Accountability Office:
Before the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs,
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives:
For Release on Delivery:
Expected at 10:00 a.m. EST:
Thursday, February 12, 2009:
Corrective Actions Are Needed to Address Serious Accountability
Concerns about Weapons Provided to Afghan National Security Forces:
Statement of Charles M. Johnson, Jr., Director:
International Affairs and Trade:
[End of section]
February 12, 2009:
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here to discuss the report GAO is releasing publicly
today on accountability for small arms and light weapons that the
United States has obtained and provided or intends to provide to the
Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)--the Afghan National Army and
the Afghan National Police.[Footnote 1] Given the unstable security
conditions in Afghanistan, the risk of loss and theft of these weapons
is significant, which makes this hearing particularly timely.
My testimony today focuses on (1) the types and quantities of weapons
the Department of Defense (Defense) has obtained for ANSF, (2) whether
Defense can account for the weapons it obtained for ANSF, and (3) the
extent to which ANSF can properly safeguard and account for its weapons
and other sensitive equipment.
Defense Has Obtained Weapons for ANSF through U.S. Procurement and
During fiscal years 2002 through 2008, the United States spent
approximately $16.5 billion to train and equip the Afghan army and
police forces in order to transfer responsibility for the security of
Afghanistan from the international community to the Afghan government.
As part of this effort, Defense--through the U.S. Army and Navy--
purchased over 242,000 small arms and light weapons, at a cost of about
$120 million. As illustrated in figure 1, these weapons include rifles,
pistols, shotguns, machine guns, mortars, and launchers for grenades,
rockets, and missiles.
Figure 1: Types and Quantities of U.S.-Procured Weapons Shipped to
Afghanistan for ANSF (December 2004-June 2008)[A]:
[Refer to PDF for image]
Types and Quantities of U.S.-Procured Weapons Shipped to
Afghanistan for ANSF (December 2004-June 2008)[A]:
Weapons category: Rifles;
Quantity shipped: 117,163.
Weapons category: Pistols;
Quantity shipped: 62,055.
Weapons category: Machine guns;
Quantity shipped: 35,778.
Weapons category: Grenade Launchers;
Quantity shipped: 18,656.
Weapons category: Shotguns;
Quantity shipped: 6,704.
Weapons category: Rocket-propelled grenade launchers;
Quantity shipped: 1,620.
Weapons category: Mortars and other weapons[A];
Quantity shipped: 227.
Weapons category: Total;
Quantity shipped: 242,203.
Source: GAO analysis of Defense data.
[A] Defense began shipping weapons it procured to Afghanistan for ANSF
in December 2004.
[End of figure]
In addition, CSTC-A has reported that 21 other countries provided about
135,000 weapons for ANSF between June 2002 and June 2008, which they
have valued at about $103 million.[Footnote 2] This brings the total
number of weapons Defense reported obtaining for ANSF to over 375,000.
The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) in Kabul,
which is a joint service, coalition organization under the command and
control of Defense's U.S. Central Command is primarily responsible for
training and equipping ANSF.[Footnote 3] As part of that
responsibility, CSTC-A receives and stores weapons provided by the
United States and other international donors and distributes them to
ANSF units. In addition, CSTC-A is responsible for monitoring the use
of U.S.-procured weapons and other sensitive equipment.
Defense Could Not Fully Account for Weapons:
Lapses in weapons accountability occurred throughout the supply chain,
including when weapons were obtained, transported to Afghanistan, and
stored at two central depots in Kabul. Defense has accountability
procedures for its own weapons, including (1) serial number
registration and reporting[Footnote 4] and (2) 100 percent physical
inventories of weapons stored in depots at least annually. However,
Defense failed to provide clear guidance to U.S. personnel regarding
what accountability procedures applied when handling weapons obtained
for the ANSF.
We found that the U.S. Army and CSTC-A did not maintain complete
records for an estimated 87,000--or about 36 percent--of the 242,000
weapons Defense procured and shipped to Afghanistan for ANSF.
* For about 46,000 weapons, the Army could not provide us serial
numbers to uniquely identify each weapon provided, which made it
impossible for us to determine their location or disposition.
* For about 41,000 weapons with serial numbers recorded, CSTC-A did not
have any records of their location or disposition.[Footnote 5]
Furthermore, CSTC-A did not maintain reliable records, including serial
numbers, for any of the 135,000 weapons it reported obtaining from
international donors from June 2002 through June 2008.
Although weapons were in Defense's control and custody until they were
issued to ANSF units, accountability was compromised during
transportation and storage. Organizations involved in the transport of
U.S.-procured weapons into Kabul by air did not communicate adequately
to ensure that accountability was maintained over weapons during
transport. In addition, CSTC-A did not maintain complete and accurate
inventory records for weapons at the central storage depots and allowed
poor security to persist. Until July 2008, CSTC-A did not track all
weapons at the depots by serial number and conduct routine physical
inventories. Without such regular inventories, it is difficult for CSTC-
A to maintain accountability for weapons at the depots and detect
weapons losses. Moreover, CSTC-A could not identify and respond to
incidents of actual or potential compromise, including suspected
pilferage, due to poor security and unreliable data systems.
Illustrating the importance of physical inventories, less than 1 month
after completing its first full weapons inventory, CSTC-A officials
identified the theft of 47 pistols intended for ANSF.
During our review, Defense indicated that it would begin recording
serial numbers for all weapons it obtains for ANSF, and CSTC-A
established procedures to track weapons by serial number in
Afghanistan. It also began conducting physical inventories of the
weapons stored at the central depots. However, CSTC-A officials stated
that their continued implementation of these new accountability
procedures was not guaranteed, considering staffing constraints and
ANSF Cannot Fully Safeguard and Account for Weapons:
Despite CSTC-A training efforts, ANSF units cannot fully safeguard and
account for weapons, placing weapons CSTC-A has provided to ANSF at
serious risk of theft or loss. In February 2008, CSTC-A acknowledged
that it was issuing equipment to Afghan National Police units before
providing training on accountability practices and ensuring that
effective controls were in place. Recognizing the need for weapons
accountability in ANSF units, Defense and State deployed hundreds of
U.S. trainers and mentors to, among other things, help the Afghan army
and police establish equipment accountability practices. In June 2008,
Defense reported to Congress that it was CSTC-A's policy not to issue
equipment to ANSF without verifying that appropriate supply and
accountability procedures are in place.[Footnote 6] While CSTC-A has
established a system for assessing the logistics capacity of ANSF
units, it has not consistently assessed or verified ANSF's ability to
properly account for weapons and other equipment.
Contractors serving as mentors have reported major ANSF accountability
weaknesses. Although these reports did not address accountability
capacities in a consistent manner that would allow a systematic or
comprehensive assessment of all units, they highlighted the following
common problems relating to weapons accountability.
* Lack of functioning property book operations. Many Afghan army and
police units did not properly maintain property books, which are
fundamental tools used to establish equipment accountability and are
required by Afghan ministerial decrees.
* Illiteracy. Widespread illiteracy among Afghan army and police
personnel substantially impaired equipment accountability. For example,
a mentor noted that illiteracy in one Afghan National Army corps was
directly interfering with the ability of supply section personnel to
implement property accountability processes and procedures, despite
repeated training efforts.
* Poor security. Some Afghan National Police units did not have
facilities adequate to ensure the physical security of weapons and
protect them against theft in a high-risk environment. In a northern
province, for example, a contractor reported that the arms room of one
police district office was behind a wooden door that had only a
miniature padlock, and that this represented the same austere
conditions as in the other districts.
* Unclear guidance. Afghan government logistics policies were not
always clear to Afghan army and police property managers. Approved
Ministry of Interior policies outlining material accountability
procedures were not widely disseminated, and many police logistics
officers did not recognize any of the logistical policies as rule.
Additionally, a mentor to the Afghan National Army told us that despite
new Ministry of Defense decrees on accountability, logistics officers
often carried out property accountability functions using Soviet-style
accounting methods and that the Ministry was still auditing army
accounts against those defunct standards.
* Corruption. Reports of alleged theft and unauthorized resale of
weapons are common, including one case in which an Afghan police
battalion commander in one province was allegedly selling weapons to
* Desertion. Desertion in the Afghan National Police has also resulted
in the loss of weapons. For example, contractors reported that Afghan
Border Police officers at one province checkpoint deserted to ally
themselves with enemy forces and took all their weapons and two
vehicles with them.
In July 2007, Defense began issuing night vision devices to the Afghan
National Army. These devices are considered dangerous to the public and
U.S. forces in the wrong hands, and Defense guidance calls for
intensive monitoring of their use, including tracking by serial number.
However, we found that CSTC-A did not begin monitoring the use of these
sensitive devices until October 2008--about 15 months after issuing
them. Defense and CSTC-A attributed the limited monitoring of these
devices to a number of factors, including a shortage of security
assistance staff and expertise at CSTC-A, exacerbated by frequent CSTC-
A staff rotations. After we brought this to CSTC-A's attention, it
conducted an inventory and reported in December 2008 that all but 10 of
the 2,410 night vision devices issued had been accounted for.
We previously reported that Defense cited significant shortfalls in the
number of trainers and mentors as the primary impediment to advancing
the capabilities of ANSF.[Footnote 7] According to CSTC-A officials, as
of December 2008, CSTC-A had only 64 percent of the nearly 6,700
personnel it required to perform its overall mission, including only
about half of the over 4,000 personnel needed to mentor ANSF units.
In summary, we have serious concerns about the accountability for
weapons that Defense obtained for ANSF through U.S. procurements and
international donations. First, we estimate that Defense did not
systematically track over half of the weapons intended for ANSF. This
was primarily due to staffing shortages and Defense's failure to
establish clear accountability procedures for these weapons while they
were still in U.S. custody and control. Second, ANSF units could not
fully safeguard and account for weapons Defense has issued to them,
despite accountability training provided by both Defense and State.
Poor security and corruption in Afghanistan, unclear guidance from
Afghan ministries, and a shortage of trainers and mentors to help
ensure that appropriate accountability procedures are implemented have
reportedly contributed to this situation.
In the report we are releasing today we make several recommendations to
help improve accountability for weapons and other sensitive equipment
that the United States provided to ANSF. In particular, we recommend
that the Secretary of Defense (1) establish clear accountability
procedures for weapons while they are in the control and custody of the
United States, including tracking all weapons by serial number and
conducting routine physical inventories; (2) direct CSTC-A to
specifically assess and verify each ANSF unit's capacity to safeguard
and account for weapons and other sensitive equipment before providing
such equipment, unless a specific waiver or exception is granted; and
(3) devote adequate resources to CSTC-A's effort to train, mentor, and
assess ANSF in equipment accountability matters.
In commenting on a draft of our report, Defense concurred with our
recommendations and has begun to take corrective action.
* In January 2009, Defense directed the Defense Security Cooperation
Agency to lead an effort to establish a weapons registration and
monitoring system in Afghanistan, consistent with controls mandated by
Congress for weapons provided to Iraq. If Defense follows through on
this plan and, in addition, clearly requires routine inventories of
weapons in U.S. custody and control, our concern about the lack of
clear accountability procedures will be largely addressed.
* According to Defense, trainers and mentors are assessing the ability
of ANSF units to safeguard and account for weapons. For the Afghan
National Army, mentors are providing oversight at all levels of command
of those units receiving weapons. For the Afghan National Police, most
weapons are issued to units that have received instruction on equipment
accountability as part of newly implemented training programs.[Footnote
8] We note that at the time of our review, ANSF unit assessments did
not systematically address each unit's capacity to safeguard and
account for weapons in its possession. We also note that Defense has
cited significant shortfalls in the number of personnel required to
train and mentor ANSF units. Unless these matters are addressed, we are
not confident the shortcomings we reported will be adequately
* Defense also indicated that it is looking into ways of addressing the
staffing shortfalls that hamper CSTC-A's efforts to train, mentor, and
assess ANSF in equipment accountability matters. However, Defense did
not state how or when additional staffing would be provided.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, this concludes my
prepared statement. I will be happy to answer any questions you may
Scope and Methodology:
To address our objectives, we reviewed documentation and interviewed
officials from Defense, U.S. Central Command, CSTC-A, and the U.S. Army
and Navy. On the basis of records provided to us, we compiled detailed
information on weapons reported as shipped to CSTC-A in Afghanistan by
the United States and other countries from June 2002 through June 2008.
We traveled to Afghanistan in August 2008 to examine records and meet
with officials at CSTC-A headquarters, visit the two central depots
where the weapons provided for ANSF are stored, and meet with staff at
an Afghan National Army unit that had received weapons. While in
Afghanistan, we attempted to determine the location or disposition of a
sample of weapons. Our sample was drawn randomly from a population of
195,671 U.S.-procured weapons shipped to Afghanistan for which Defense
was able to provide serial numbers. We used the results of our sampling
to reach general conclusions about CSTC-A's ability to account for
weapons purchased by the United States for ANSF. We also discussed
equipment accountability with cognizant officials from the Afghan
Ministries of Defense and Interior, the U.S. Embassy, and contractors
involved in building ANSF's capacity to account for and manage its
We performed our work from November 2007 through January 2009 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those
standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.
Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments:
For questions regarding this testimony, please contact Charles Michael
Johnson, Jr. at (202) 512-7331 or email@example.com.
Albert H. Huntington III, Assistant Director; James Michels; Emily
Rachman; Mattias Fenton; and Mary Moutsos made key contributions in
preparing this statement.
[End of section]
 GAO, Afghanistan Security: Lack of Systematic Tracking Raises
Significant Accountability Concerns about Weapons Provided to Afghan
National Security Forces, [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-267] (Washington, D.C.: Jan 30,
 We were unable to independently verify the weapons quantities that
the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) reported
to us. Furthermore, CSTC-A officials told us they had not evaluated the
reliability of the values assigned by donors for these weapons.
 This effort is undertaken with support from the Department of State
 The objective of serial number registration and reporting
procedures, according to Defense guidance, is to establish continuous
visibility over weapons throughout the various stages of the supply
process, including "from the contractor to depot; [and] in storage."
See DoD 4000.25-M, Vol. 2, Chap 18, C18.3.1.
 This estimated amount reflects the results of our testing of a
generalizable sample selected randomly from 195,671 U.S.-procured
weapons for which Defense could provide serial numbers; the estimate
has a margin of error of +/-10,000 weapons at the 95 percent confidence
 See Department of Defense, Report to Congress in Accordance with
2008 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 1231, P.L. 110-181),
United States Plan for Sustaining the Afghanistan National Security
Forces (Washington, D.C.: June 2008), 13.
 GAO, Afghanistan Security: Further Congressional Action May Be
Needed to Ensure Completion of a Detailed Plan to Develop and Sustain
Capable Afghan National Security Forces, [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-661] (Washington, D.C.: June 18,
 These programs include Focused District Development and Focused
Border Development. We are currently reviewing the Focused District
Development program, and plan to report our results in March 2009.
[End of section]
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