Weapons U.S. Provides to Iraq Security Forces Finding Way toTerrorists, Defense Department Tells Congress

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Weapons the United States provides to Iraqi security forces may still be ending up in the hands of terrorists, insurgents and criminals, the Defense Department's inspector general told Congress on Tuesday.

While the Defense Department has improved its control of the flow of tens of thousands of munitions into Iraq, "There still remains work to be accomplished," Claude Kicklighter said in prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

Appearing in secret for a briefing before the House of Representatives Appropriations defense subcommittee, Kicklighter said his office received complaints almost a year ago from Turkish officials that weapons intended for Iraq's growing military and police forces were being used by militant groups in Turkey.

"We were also beginning to find some weapons that the U.S. had supplied to (Iraqi security forces) were in the hands and control of insurgent groups and U.S. contractors in Iraq," he said.

Investigators found that a contractor implicated in a bribery scheme in Kuwait had a contract to run a warehouse where weapons for Iraq's police force were stored, Kicklighter said.

Based on that information, Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed Kicklighter to examine how much oversight U.S. authorities had over the weapons bought with U.S. tax dollars.

In a July report, the Government Accountability Office said that until December 2005, U.S. commanders in Iraq had no centralized set of records for the shipping of weapons to Iraqi forces.

The Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq said 185,000 Russian-designed AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 sets of body armor and 140,000 helmets had been issued to Iraqi troops by September 2005, according to the report.

Due to incomplete record-keeping, the command could not be certain if the Iraqis received 110,000 of the rifles or 80,000 of the pistols. More than half of the body armor and helmets could not be tracked.

As of last September, the Defense Department still had not settled on how the security transition command should track weapons.

Kicklighter's prepared testimony does not mention specific weapons or the steps the military has taken to ensure the firepower gets to the right places.

A multiagency assessment team that includes representatives from the inspector general's office, U.S. Central Command, and the State and Justice departments plans to return to Iraq in March for a follow-up review.