The Pentagon is investigating whether some of the 190,000 weapons the U.S. military lost track of while training Iraqi troops were peddled on the black market by American soldiers and contractors, federal law-enforcement and congressional sources tell TIME. In recent weeks, Claude Kicklighter, the Pentagon's inspector general, has privately told lawmakers that the Defense Criminal Investigative Service has launched a probe into whether U.S. military and civilian contractors intercepted up to 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 80,000 pistols intended for Iraqi security forces in 2004 and '05 to sell on the Iraqi black market. A Pentagon official declined comment.
The case was opened, according to a congressional aide who attended one of the briefings, after the Government Accountability Office revealed in July that some 30% of all U.S. weapons bound for Iraqi security forces had gone missing. The report cited, among other factors, "insufficient staffing" and a failure to follow established distribution procedures as contributing to the disappearance of thousands of weapons. Particularly unsettling for lawmakers was the realization that General David Petraeus was in charge of training Iraqi security forces--which has cost more than $19.2 billion since 2003--during the time the weapons went missing. Despite having the ultimate responsibility for overseeing the training, however, Petraeus, now the commanding general in Iraq, has not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
Revelations that U.S. soldiers are suspected of illegal arms sales in Iraq could prove to be another example, like leaving depots unguarded, of how U.S. actions have put weapons in the hands of anti-U.S. insurgents. "[The problem] goes back," says a congressional aide, "to not having enough troops."