How the US Lost Track of $2 Billion Worth of Weapons Sent to Fight ISIS
Policy + Politics

How the US Lost Track of $2 Billion Worth of Weapons Sent to Fight ISIS


In 2014, as ISIS rampaged through large swaths of Syria and Iraq, a concerned U.S. Congress appropriated an extra $2.3 billion to arm Iraqis and Kurds fighting the Islamic State.

Related: How Will We Pay the $6 Trillion Bill for the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

By the end of 2016, almost all of the money in the Iraq Train & Equip Fund had been spent on machine guns, rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers, body armor, helmets, trucks, mine-resistant vehicles and ambulances, among other materiel. It was shipped from the U.S. to staging sites in Kuwait and Iraq for distribution to Iraqi security forces and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

But the General Accounting Office said in a report last week that once the arms reached Kuwait, tracking of the distribution chain broke down and the Pentagon is unable to account for where $2 billion worth of shipments wound up.

The Defense Department did “not collect timely and accurate transportation information about the equipment purchased through the fund. As a result, DOD can't demonstrate that this equipment reached its intended destinations in Iraq,” the report said.

When asked if the agency had examined whether any of the arms and equipment had fallen into the wrong hands or wound up on the black market, Jessica Farb, director of international affairs and trade at the GAO who oversaw the report, said in an email that “examining where the equipment went after transfer was outside the scope of our work.”

Critics worry that U.S. weapons sent to the war zones in the Middle East may wind up in terrorists’ hands. A 2015 report by Amnesty International found that ISIS was using weapons the U.S. had provided to Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish forces. And the GAO warned as early as 2007 that the Pentagon can’t be sure that the weapons it provides to Iraqi security forces end up in the right hands.