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The Coalition’s Plan To Keep US Weapons Out Of ISIS Hands Is Garbage
The Department of Defense has a major gun control problem.
On May 26, Amnesty International published a damning report revealing that the United States failed to track more than $1 billion in arms transfers to Iraqi and Kuwaiti security forces as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The report, based on a now-declassified 2016 DoD audit obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, shows that terrible record keeping and loose restrictions potentially let weapons from machine guns to mortar rounds fall into the hands of ISIS.
Less than a week later, Pentagon officials announced that U.S.-backed coalition forces had officially started arming members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ahead of the assault on ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqa.
The new weapons transfers to U.S.-backed fighters, ordered by President Donald Trump in early May over the objections of regional NATO ally Turkey, have not gone over well. In one of his first teleconferences from Baghdad as OIR spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon faced harsh questioning from Washington Post reporter and Marine veteran Thomas Gibbons-Neff, who pointed out that Dillon’s predecessor had pledged to “keep account of every single weapon supplied to the SDF and ensure that they’re not pointed at anyone except [ISIS].”
“How exactly do you plan on executing that?” Gibbons-Neff asked. “I can't think of a time where we've supplied weapons to proxies and not have them turn up in the wrong hands.”
“Whenever we sign up for something, you know, we go through every serial number,” Dillon offered as an answer. “And that is the same kind of process at the commander level that we are going to go through to make sure that we have accountability of the weapons and the equipment that we are providing the SDF.”
Before picking up their shiny new M4s from coalition trainers, local fighters go through a vetting process and enter into a documented agreement to “fight only ISIS and uphold the laws of armed conflict,” Dillon added. Additionally, U.S. commanders, “will sign for, by serial number, all the equipment that we are giving and we'll maintain that in our database.” If it’s going downrange, coalition troops will keep track of it.
Many of the Western weapons and equipment distributed like candy to battlefield partners in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of the Global War on Terror have wound up in the hands of terrorists regardless of oversight efforts. A 2015 Amnesty report indicated that the majority of ISIS’s arsenal “comes from stockpiles captured from the U.S.-allied Iraqi military and Syrian rebels”; even airdrops of small arms meant for regional allies can fall into ISIS hands, as they have in Syria, thanks to a disastrous gust of wind.
Based on that recent history, there’s little comfort in Dillon’s vague tough talk of coalition military advisers peering over some SDF recruits’ shoulders during block-by-block firefights. A 2016 investigation into 14 years of DoD weapons contracts by the weapons proliferation non-profit Action on Armed Violence revealed that of the nearly 1.5 million firearms the Pentagon provided to security forces — including 978,000 M16 and M4 assault rifles — DoD officials only had records for around 700,000 weapons.
"This only accounts for 48% of the total small arms supplied by the U.S. government found in open source government reports," AAV said in a statement at the time. "Such shortfalls highlight the lack of accountability, transparency and joined up data that exists at the very heart of the U.S. government's weapon procurement and distribution systems."
The problem has been especially pronounced in recent years. A 2014 report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that of the 474,823 weapons with serial numbers recorded in the Afghan National Security Forces’ Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD), 203,888 — a whopping 43% — had “missing information and/or duplication,” making tracking them near impossible. It’s not that those weapons are all “lost” or in the hands of ISIS or the Taliban — officials just aren’t sure what happened to them.
Iraqi security forces participate in the combined arms training during the officer and junior enlisted course at Camp Taji, Iraq, June 1, 2017.Photo via DoD
More often than not, it is Iraqi and Afghan security forces, from army commanders to police captains, who are responsible for the flow of shiny new American equipment onto black markets, inflating payrolls with “ghost soldiers,” and hoarding everything from extra paychecks to arms and ammunition in the hopes of turning a quick buck, according to a 2014 investigation by the New York Times.
“I told the Americans, don’t give any weapons through the army — not even one piece — because corruption is everywhere, and you will not see any of it. Our people will steal it,” Iraqi Col. Shaaban al-Obeidi told the Times. “If each soldier is supposed to get 100 bullets, he will only get 50, and the officer will take and sell the rest.”
But the problem isn’t just limited to corruption and shoddy record keeping. In March 2015, the Washington Post reported that the DoD was “unable to account” for $500 million in military support provided to regional forces allied with president Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi in Yemen after Iran-backed Houthi rebels toppled the country’s central government the previous January. The Pentagon believes that the arsenal, which included 200 Glock 9mm pistols, 200 M4 rifles, and more than 1,250,000 rounds of ammunition, likely ended up in the hands of Houthi rebels or al Qaeda.
“Even in the best-case scenario in an unstable country, we never have 100 percent accountability,” one defense official told the Washington Post at the time.
These weapons circulate among dangerous hands faster than the United States can keep up. In late 2012, U.S. and European weapons sent to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates somehow ended up in the hands of jihadists in war-torn Libya; in Somalia, U.S. arms provided to Uganda and Burundi, partners in the campaign against al-Shabaab, ended up in the hands of Somali militants.
In effect, once a weapon leaves U.S. military custody, there’s a 50-50 chance that it’ll be long gone the next time a DoD official decides to check in.
Dillon can wag his finger at the SDF all he wants from his podium in the Pentagon press room, but that won’t stop corrupt regional allies — and sloppy bookkeeping by DoD personnel — from pilfering from the coalition’s arsenal. And until the gun-running stops, American troops could find themselves pinned down in a firefight against the very weapons that were supposed to defend and protect them.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.