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14,000 U.S.-supplied weapons reportedly missing in Iraq

Thousands of weapons the United States has provided Iraqi security forces cannot be accounted for, and spare parts and repair manuals are unavailable for many others, a new report to Congress says. The report, prepared at the request of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, also found that major challenges remain that put at risk the Defense Department's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007.

A spokesman for Warner said the senator read the report over the weekend in preparation for a meeting Tuesday with Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Warner, who requested the report in May, "believes it is essential that Congress and the American people continue to be kept informed by the inspector general on the equipping and logistical capabilities of the Iraqi army and security forces, since these represent an important component of overall readiness," said Warner spokesman John Ullyot.

The inspector general's office released its report Sunday in a series of three audits finding that:

* Nearly one of every 25 weapons the military bought for Iraqi security forces is missing. Many others cannot be repaired because parts or technical manuals are lacking.

* "Significant challenges remain that put at risk" the U.S. military's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007.

* "The unstable security environment in Iraq touches every aspect" of the Provincial Reconstruction Team program, in which U.S. government experts help Iraqis develop regional governmental institutions.

The Pentagon cannot account for 14,030 weapons -- almost 4 percent of the semiautomatic pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons it has been supplying to Iraq since the end of 2003. The missing weapons will not be tracked easily: The Defense Department registered the serial numbers of only about 10,000 of the 370,251 weapons it provided -- less than 3 percent. Missing from the Defense Department's inventory books were 13,180 semiautomatic pistols, 751 assault rifles and 99 machine guns.

The audit on logistics capabilities said there is a "significant risk" that the Iraqi interior ministry "will not be capable of assuming and sustaining logistics support for the Iraqi local and national police forces in the near term." That support includes equipment maintenance, transportation of people and gear and health resources for soldiers and police.

The audit on Provincial Reconstruction Teams said that, because of security issues, they "have varying degrees of ability to carry out their missions." Auditors reviewed nine teams and four satellite offices and found "4 were generally able, 4 were somewhat able, 3 were less able and 2 were generally unable" to accomplish their goals.

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