Markets in western Pakistan are reportedly awash in U.S. military equipment and supplies stolen from containers being transshipped from the Port of Karachi overland into Afghanistan. The goods for sale reportedly include trucks, armored vehicles, Humvees, night vision goggles, body armor, food, military computers, communications gear, large electricity generators and even personal effects of the troops. The thefts also include Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs) and more importantly IR (infrared) tabs that U.S. troops wear at night to distinguish themselves from the enemy. Some of the stolen items are U.S. Munitions List regulated items, which makes them among the most classified items in the Pentagon’s inventory.
There have been repeated reports of U.S. and NATO weapons being stolen by or sold to the Taliban, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In early September, reports emerged that dozens of British 59 “minimi” machine guns were stolen during a road heist in Kandahar. The Model 59 can fire 1,000 rounds per minute. The British Daily Telegraph reported on September 4, 2010, that at least some of the stolen guns had been used against American forces.
The 59 Minimi machine guns were not reported missing for almost a year.
The Pakistani news blog “thecurrentaffairs.com” reported last year that the Taliban in Pakistan are being supplied with modern American mortars, rockets and sniper rifles. On August 2, 2010, the respected Pakistani newspaper Dawn published a story regarding how stolen U.S. military weapons are being used against the Pakistani army in the Swat Valley. The stolen material therefore may not simply be upgrading the combat capabilities of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but may also be destabilizing Pakistan.
The October 11, 2010, edition of Dawn reported that more than 500 trucks hauling American and NATO supplies through Pakistan are currently unaccounted for. That appears to just be some of the thefts for 2010. These stolen military supplies could be finding their way to the Taliban and could be providing it with a key edge in the war as it enters its 10th year. The Pentagon does not publicize or even publicly acknowledge these thefts, except in the most general of terms. This author has not been able to determine the full scope of the problem, but the volume appears to be staggering. Congress and the American people deserve to be told the truth. They should be provided with detailed information about the volume, dollar amount and description of the lost supplies. They should also be briefed as to why the thefts are continuing and what the Pentagon and the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan are doing about this scandal.
On May 24, 2010, Deputy Pentagon Inspector General Ginger Cruz told Defense News that the U.S. Justice Department has tended to ignore overseas thefts and contract fraud cases. As a result, it has been difficult to prosecute American and foreign contractors and companies that steal from the U.S. overseas.
In contrast, on October 7, 2010, David B. Fein, the United States Attorney for Connecticut, announced with great fanfare the sentencing of Wilfred Bouton to two years in jail for stealing and selling military rifle scopes and range finders. Mr. Fein announced to the press that:
“Illegal weapons trafficking is a serious offense that endangers the lives of our military servicemen and servicewomen overseas.”
While this statement is correct, the U.S. Justice Department’s commitment to combating such weapons trafficking is questionable. Mr. Bouton’s alleged offense is trivial compared to what occurs every day in Pakistan, yet there is no apparent concern by Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the seemingly organized campaign of thefts of U.S. military goods in Pakistan. The Obama Administration’s rationale seems to be that a percentage of thefts in Pakistan are inevitable and that they are simply a cost of doing business. It may also be reluctant to press for indictments as many of the Pakistani trucking companies have ties to the Pakistani military. This is the same policy that the CIA acquiesced to during the 1980’s when it reportedly permitted the Pakistani military to skim off a percentage of the weapons and military gear that the Reagan Administration was providing to Muslim extremist groups that were fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
High-tech American Arms are for sale in flea markets along the Afghan/Pakistan border.
The WikiLeaks documents reveal that the Bush Administration covered up and misled the American people regarding military failures, potential American war crimes and unnecessary civilian casualties, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. The evidence suggests that nothing has changed under President Obama. How many American troops have died as a result of the Taliban’s acquisition of stolen U.S. military equipment and weapons?
The Pentagon, CIA and State Department continue to selectively publish good news about “progress” in Afghanistan and continue to control (and sometimes suppress) bad news about the war. How can one trust State Department and Pentagon boasts of progress when there is no transparency? Just as important is the fact that the Taliban will never be defeated as long as the Pentagon continues to provide it with a seemingly endless supply of modern American military equipment.