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October 30, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

Afghan arms security
A report by the Pentagon inspector general states that problems with controls and accounting for U.S. weapons and explosives supplied to the Afghan security forces could lead to the diversion of arms to insurgents. The report also identified shortcomings in the $7.4 billion program of equipping and training Afghan forces.

An IG assessment team surveyed weapons controls at the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) and found the command "had not issued implementing instructions or procedures governing the accountability, control, and physical security of arms, ammunition, and explosives the U.S. is supplying to" the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), according to the Oct. 24 report.

Additionally, the command did not clearly define the mission of U.S. training teams and other advisers working with the Afghan military units and security agencies on the control of U.S.-supplied arms and explosives. An accounting system also was not in place to log weapons' serial numbers into a database. As a result, "weapons that fall into enemy hands may not be traceable to the responsible individual[s], if recovered," the report says, noting that controls on captured enemy weapons also need tightening.

The IG assessment for weapons in Afghanistan grew out of a similar investigation in Iraq prompted by reports from the Turkish national police last year indicating that "weapons and explosives the U.S. supplied to [Iraqi Security Forces] were finding their way into the hands of insurgents, terrorists, and criminals in Turkey," the report says. A separate IG report on weapons controls in Iraq is classified, and an unclassified version will be made public soon.

There were no similar signs of U.S. weapons and explosives reaching Afghan insurgents, but officials fear weapons or explosives could be passed to the Taliban because of corruption within Afghan security forces. Steps are being taken to fix the weapon-control problems in Afghanistan, and most were resolved in Iraq, said defense officials familiar with the IG assessment.

One official said weapon-control problems are caused by shortages of troops and other logistics resources in Afghanistan but noted that they are being corrected. "If you want it fast, you get it fast; if you run an economy-of-force theater, you get economy results," the official said.

The report recommends that the command in Afghanistan issue guidelines for the accountability, control and physical security of arms, ammunition and explosives.

"The security of conventional [arms, ammunition and explosives] is paramount as the theft or misuse of this material would gravely jeopardize the safety and security of personnel and installations worldwide," said James R. Clapper Jr., undersecretary of defense for intelligence, in response to the report.

The Pentagon set up a strategic plan for controlling arms and explosives in 2004. A directive on the plan states that the Pentagon "faces a significant challenge" handling arms, ammunition and explosives (AA&E) "while it effectively meets the requirements of warfighters for timely supplies -- worldwide."

"Terrorists, or other individuals or entities pursuing their own agenda, seek to exploit the vulnerabilities of the United States and use our nation's AA&E and conveyances in ways never conceived before," the directive states.

The IG report also says the $7.4 billion program to arm and equip Afghan forces, the key to stabilizing the country, is hampered by delays in the Foreign Military Assistance program because it is not geared toward rapidly supplying arms and equipment to Afghan forces in wartime. Military commanders want the processing time for the military aid requests cut from 120 days to 30 days.

The report states that the military aid program "had not yet demonstrated that it could responsively meet CSTC-A and [ANSF] wartime equipping requirements."

"We believe that the strategic importance to the United States of standing up the ANSF merits establishing a reduced [foreign military sales] case processing time standard for the wartime conditions it faces in Afghanistan," the report says.

Africom and China
The commander of the newly created U.S. Africa Command, or Africom, carefully sidestepped a question about whether the new command, with headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, was created with an eye toward strategic competition with China, which is expanding its influence into the continent.

"I can't judge what the Chinese do or don't do, but I would say where there are common objectives we would look to be complementary to what we do in the hopes of creating a more stable continent of Africa," said Army Gen. William E. Ward, noting that many nations are involved in Africa, including China, India, Russia and European states.

"We do what we do because it's in our national security and our foreign-policy interest to do our work," he told reporters at a breakfast meeting on Oct. 8.

"So, for us, where there are common objectives in pursuit of stability, where there are common objectives in pursuit of increased security, I think we would look forward to doing our efforts as cooperatively as possible so that those security and stability effects had the best chance of being realized in whatever part of the continent that we work."

Gen. Ward said threats in Africa include "extremism, terrorism, illegal activity in territorial waters, ungoverned and undergoverned spaces," while illegal immigration and corruption pose "internal threats."

Africom will help Africans "be in a better posture to provide for their own security," he said.

"So where we can provide assistance to them in that effort, that's where our command comes into the mix there."

China's government indirectly has criticized the creation of the command. The Communist Party Central Committee newspaper People's Daily has questioned the U.S. military presence, stating that the vast majority of African nations think the command "operates for oil and resources rather than for the benefit and interests of the African people."

A weekly newspaper published by the state-run Xinhua news agency reported that U.S. and other Western powers are working to "squeeze out China" from Africa.

"Africa is no longer the exclusive domain of certain western powers, and certainly it is not the new battleground for confrontation among the powers in the 21st century as alleged by certain Western media," the Xinhua-owned Cankao Xiaoxi reported Jan. 7. "Instead, it should be the new venue for equal competition and cooperation in development among all countries in order to bring about the rejuvenation of this ancient continent."

Thomas J. Christensen, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a Senate hearing in June that "we remain concerned with a general lack of transparency regarding China's foreign assistance practices in Africa." He stated that "on occasion, it appears that China's policies serve to undercut the efforts of others to use investment and development assistance to produce improved governance."

China also uses foreign aid as a trade tool that appears aimed at securing "natural resources and access to markets," Mr. Christensen said.

Additionally, Chinese arms sales to repressive regimes in such places as Sudan and Zimbabwe "contribute to instability and endanger China's long-term interests on the continent."

Chinese Embassy press spokesman Wang Baodong could not be reached for comment.

Jiang Yu, a Foreign Ministry press spokeswoman, was asked last year if the command was targeted at China and said China's presence is "conducive to peace, stability and development of Africa, and welcomed and supported by African countries and people."

"We hope countries do more to promote peace, stability and development in Africa," she said.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at

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