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Letter to Secretary of Defense Roberts Gates


Location: Washington, DC

Obama Calls on Gates to Reform Weapons Accountability System in Iraq

U.S. arms may inadvertently be fueling all sides of Iraq's civil war

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Roberts Gates, requesting recommendations for reforming the process of equipping Iraqi Security Forces. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. military cannot account for almost thirty percent of the weapons transferred to Iraqi forces in 2007. As a result, the U.S. may be inadvertently providing arms to all sides of Iraq's civil war. In the letter, Obama requests a detailed explanation and assessment of the accountability measures and recommendations for reforming the system.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary Gates:

I am writing to request your recommendations for reforming a system of equipping Iraqi Security Forces that is clearly lacking in accountability.

According to a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. military cannot account for nearly 30 percent of the weapons that were given to Iraqi Security Forces through early 2007. Specifically, GAO reports that some 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 80,000 pistols are missing. Furthermore, GAO reports that the U.S. military had no system of accounting for these weapons in 2004 and 2005, when something as simple as a serial number could have provided an important tracking tool.

Given the importance of the train and equip program to the long-term prospects for peace and stability in Iraq, I am deeply troubled that this program seems to lack such basic oversight.

Because small-arms fire is a hallmark of this conflict, it is likely that these weapons are being used against our own brave men and women serving in Iraq. We also may be inadvertently providing arms to all sides of Iraq's civil war. Given the enormous amount of weapons missing, it is all too probable that groups like Sunni Arab insurgents, Shiite militias with ties to the Iranian government, and common criminals have been using weapons that were bought and paid for by the American taxpayer.

With this letter, I am requesting a detailed explanation of the accountability measures in place to ensure that our weapons are not falling in the wrong hands, your assessment of those accountability measures, and your recommendations for reforming a system that has clearly been inadequate. For roughly four years we have been trying to train and equip competent Iraqi Security Forces; it is past time that we got this right.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Barack Obama
United States Senator

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