(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON – February 13, 2009: Lax controls mean that tens of thousands of US weapons, including assault rifles and grenade launchers, risk ending up in the wrong hands in Afghanistan, congressional auditors warned on Thursday. The Pentagon has failed to track an estimated 87,000 weapons given to Afghan government forces by the United States, or a further 135,000 donated by NATO allies, a report by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office said. US military officials' neglect to record serial numbers or conduct inventories once the weapons were shipped to Afghan forces risk them ending up in Taliban hands and being turned on NATO troops, the report indicated. "Given the unstable security conditions in Afghanistan, the risk of loss and theft of these weapons is significant," said the evaluation, which was submitted to a House of Representatives hearing taking place Thursday. GAO inspectors visited Afghanistan last August and found a worrying failure to conduct basic checks by US forces on the ground. "Lapses in accountability occurred throughout the supply chain," the report said. "This was primarily due to a lack of clear direction from (Department of) Defense and staffing shortages." Aside from weaponry including rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and mortars, the report found inadequate oversight of night vision goggles issued to the Afghan National Army. There was no immediate comment from the US government but a senior Pentagon auditor, Thomas Gimble, was testifying at the hearing of the House subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs. The subcommittee's Democratic chairman, John Tierney, said the "disturbing" GAO report exposed the risk of US troops being killed by their own government's weapons.
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