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Defense Department assigns assessment team

Aug. 30, 2007 at 8:10 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The Pentagon is sending investigators to probe unaccounted weapons for the Iraqi security forces.

The 18-person team will be led by the U.S. Defense Department inspector general, retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter. The group will travel to Iraq in an effort to determine the magnitude of a reported problem of about 110,000 AK-47 rifles and 80,000 pistols, among other items reported as issued to Iraqi forces in 2005 that cannot be accounted for, according to the American Forces Press Service.

“Since January, the inspector general’s office has been thoroughly investigating reports of unaccounted-for weapons, as well as allegations of arms ending up in the wrong hands,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell in a news conference Thursday.

Top Defense Department authorities have raised concerns about Turkish claims of U.S.-issued weapons that are ending up in the hands of criminals in Turkey. By law, the inspector general is the principal adviser to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for fraud, waste and abuse issues in the department.

Inspector General Kicklighter will “remain in place as long as it takes to find out if any record-keeping problems persist, and if so, make any recommendations to commanders on the ground to fix those problems,” said Morrell. "With direction from (Secretary) Gates to get to the bottom of the situation, Kicklighter and his team will travel to Iraq next week."

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