The Defense Department lost advanced military gear sent to bolster coalition forces in Afghanistan, raising the risk that this proprietary equipment falls into the hands of terrorist forces still operating in the war-torn country, according to a new government oversight report.
Around 60 percent of the military items transferred to Afghan forces were not properly inventoried, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which oversees the Defense Department’s spending on the war. In one case, 19 of nearly 50 night-vision goggles given to the Afghan National Defense and Security Services in the past year were captured by enemy forces. U.S. officials admitted to the inspector that they have never been able to inventory 100 percent of the military equipment sent to Afghanistan due to the volatile security situation.
The Defense Department "did not meet its own oversight requirements for monitoring sensitive defense articles transferred to the Afghan government, leaving them susceptible to theft or loss," according to the report. "The requirements are designed to minimize national security risks by preventing the diversion or misuse of defense articles that incorporate sensitive technology." Current procedures stipulate the U.S. account for all of its military gear at least once a year.
The report spotlights the ongoing difficulties the United States faces in arming Afghan troops and ensuring the weaponry does not fall into enemy hands. In some cases, the United States has not tracked sensitive military equipment for several years, "increasing the chance that they could be lost or stolen." During the 2019 reporting period, the Afghan military reported that more than 1,500 combat items were captured by enemy forces. Another 1,422 were either "destroyed, damaged, or lost."
The report also found that U.S. military officials have not actively tried to implement workaround policies that may help them keep track of sensitive military equipment.
Large portions of Afghanistan remain a war zone, limiting the ability of U.S. military personnel to perform in-person checks at Afghan security facilities.
The United States "did not inventory 60 percent of enhanced [end-use-monitoring]-designated articles—those considered to contain sensitive technology—between May 2019 and April 2020 because of security constraints and travel limitations," according to the report.
From 2017 to 2018, the United States accounted for just 1.7 percent of the 234,196 defense items transferred to the Afghan government during that time.