Hundreds of thousands of sophisticated U.S. military weapons given to the Afghan military are missing and may be in the hands of the Taliban, according to a government watchdog.
The missing equipment includes weapons such as rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers and tactical shotguns.
"Given the Afghan government's limited ability to account for or properly dispose of these 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 [Afghan National Security Forces] and Afghan civilians," said the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in a report.
The problem has developed since 2007 as the Department of Defense provided more than 747,000 weapons and related equipment worth $626 million to the Afghan military to help train and equip them in anticipation of U.S. forces leaving their country, according to the SIGAR report.
The two databases used by DOD to track the weapons were found to have numerous "errors and discrepancies," the report said.
Of nearly 475,000 serial numbers recorded in the first of the two, DOD's Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database, 43 percent, or 204,000 weapons, are missing or represent duplicates, according to SIGAR.
The second database used by DOD to track weapons given to the Afghans — the Security Cooperation Information Portal — had almost 60,000 serial numbers with no shipping or receiving dates.
Missing information in the OVERLORD system was due to poor record-keeping when the weapons arrived in Afghanistan; the information missing from the SCIP database was the fault of the military during procurement in the U.S., the report said.
After conducting inventory tests and site visits at four Afghan National Security Force facilities, SIGAR found three of the four had satisfactory results, but could still improve on record keeping.
DOD told SIGAR it does not have the authority to require the Afghan military to do an inventory check, nor can it recover or destroy weapons unless declared excess by the Afghans.