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May 21st, 2009
01:25 PM ET

U.S. arms in Taliban hands

A former CIA officer says Taliban fighters get U.S. arms by container theft and the loss of Afghan police.

A former CIA officer says Taliban fighters get U.S. arms by container theft and the loss of Afghan police.

A New York Times report published this week says markings on ammunition collected from killed Taliban insurgents suggest that it's coming from the Pentagon.

Gary Berntsen spent more than two decades in the CIA. He also led CIA forces in eastern Afghanistan after 9/11. He joined John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday.

John Roberts: The New York Times suggested poor discipline and outright corruption among Afghan forces is responsible for some of the weapons getting into the hands of the Taliban. What are some of the other ways?

Gary Berntsen: Part of the problem is there has been a lot of container theft over the last year and a half. Containers moving from the Port of Karachi up into Afghanistan on trucks and to U.S. forces have been broken into, have been robbed completely. This is more of a problem than just the Taliban drinking “Red Bull” and listening to iPods. They're getting equipment out of these things. That's one.

Roberts: So the Pentagon sends these containers full of weapons to the Port of Karachi.

Berntsen: Not so much weapons all the time. It’s body armor sometimes. They try not to send weapons that way but sometimes ammunition gets put in these things. So they pick up some of that stuff there. The other issue too is… we’ve lost 1,000 Afghan police this year. Sometimes you’ll have entire governors compounds that are overrun. They'll lose 10, 15 guys. They’ll recover weapons and ammunition during those encounters as well. Sometimes there's theft or sales by Afghan security forces. About a year ago, the attempted assassination of Karzai, it was a senior Afghan official, a general that sold those weapons to the Taliban who tried to kill Karzai with them.

Roberts: The Government Accountability Office leveled some criticism at the U.S. government for “significant lapses in accountability…” failing to account for thousands of rifles, some of which ended up in the hands of insurgents, some of which were used on the battlefield to kill American soldiers.

Berntsen: Some of contractors that are out there, some of these companies are spending a lot of time doing accounting; just doing the accounting of this. I don't see that as the biggest problem. The larger problem is loss during combat operations.

Roberts: The U.S. military says it's not a widespread problem. Do you agree?

Berntsen: I don't think it's that widespread. I think most of the loss happens when – we lost 1,000 police last year. That’s when most of the loss occur.

Roberts: How is the military going to have to change its supply lines, then, to respond to this increasing transfer of weaponry and ammunition?

Berntsen: Clearly we've gotten a free ride for six or seven years out of shipping things from the Port of Karachi up through Pakistan and in. Our supply lines are going to have to come from the north now. And the administration is preparing for that. Things are going to have to come through Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, as they come down into Afghanistan. It’s going to be a completely different supply chain.

Roberts: It’s going to be a lot more complicated than taking them by ship to the Port of Karachi and running them up the roads…

Berntsen: Much more complicated, more of an expense. And the Russians are going to have more of a say, because the Russians have come out and said "okay you can bring non-lethals through our area, but not lethals."


Filed under: Afghanistan
soundoff (One Response)
  1. jack

    theft and theft alone?

    2 things to never forget:

    1. "Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the state." – James Jesus Angelton – Director of CIA Counter Intelligence (1954-74)

    2. "The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media." – William Colby – Director of the CIA (1973-76)

    October 12, 2009 at 1:13 pm |