Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces.
Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.
Graphic - Tracing Taliban Arms
The scope of that diversion remains unknown, and the 30 magazines represented a single sampling of fewer than 1,000 cartridges. But military officials, arms analysts and dealers say it points to a worrisome possibility: With only spotty American and Afghan controls on the vast inventory of weapons and ammunition sent into Afghanistan during an eight-year conflict, poor discipline and outright corruption among Afghan forces may have helped insurgents stay supplied.
Simply pouring supplies and armor without quality control is dumb, and dangerous.
The United States has been criticized, as recently as February by the federal Government Accountability Office, for failing to account for thousands of rifles issued to Afghan security forces. Some of these weapons have been documented in insurgents’ hands, including weapons in a battle last year in which nine Americans died.
Weapons from a police post linked to an attack on Americans. Most rifles were the kind issued by the United States.
American forces do not examine all captured arms and munitions to trace how insurgents obtained them, or to determine whether the Afghan government, directly or indirectly, is a significant Taliban supplier, military officers said.
The reasons include limited resources and institutional memory of issued arms, as well as an absence of collaboration between field units that collect equipment and the investigators and supervisors in Kabul who could trace it.
Absence of collaboration; a familiar refrain.