Sunday, November 18, 2007

Belated Bad Logistics Blogging

Everyone was all over this NYT story about those vanishing cargoes of guns in Iraq. It's nothing new if you've been reading this blog; we've been concerned about this ever since 2005. And, unlike Spencer Ackerman, we've got the whole supply chain; those guns didn't come on no C-17, Spence, but on JLI and Aerocom Il-76s ex-Tuzla, some of which may not even have gone to Baghdad at all but instead filed new flight plans enroute and continued to Dubai, Djibouti, the Yemen, and many other locations.

However, the report does sharpen up our knowledge of what happened when guns did arrive in Iraq; I suspected that any vaguely official looking party might have been able to make off with them, especially the fake policemen so common in Iraq, and it looks like that's precisely what happened. Apparently, US and Iraqi officers would rush to the airport when they heard a shipment had arrived in order to grab it before anyone else did, and no documentation was checked or indeed presented.

Further, weapons were being misappropriated and sold both by Iraqi contractors and US officers; it's also certain that the insurgents were acquiring arms from the shipments, as the guns kept turning up in captured caches and stocks turned in under a buy-back program. However, much of the materiel was impossible to trace as the shippers didn't have to provide lists of serial numbers; it seems the US recipients didn't bother to catalogue them either.

We also know that the Bosnian authorities were systematically deceived about the contents of shipments leaving Tuzla; as were the British authorities in the Sloman Traveller case. It is literally impossible to say how many weapons were loaded in the Balkans, how many were unloaded in Baghdad, or what happened to any balance. (Although we do have a reasonable idea where to start looking for some of them at least.)

It may also be significant that the corruption the NYT describes began just as the involvement with Viktor Bout did.

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