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11/09/2004

Shoulder Fired Missiles

This is old news (almost 72 hours), but can't be allowed to fall down the memory hole: in addition to doing nothing to secure the al Qaqaa explosives site, the administration's poor planning let up to 4000 shoulder fired missiles fall into the hands of Iraqi insurgents:

The U.S.-led invasion forces did not secure all weapons depots in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of tons of munitions were looted. U.S. officials fear that the shoulder-launched missiles were among the items carried off by groups willing to sell them on the black market to terrorist organizations. [WP 11/7/04]
Those missiles both increase the in-theater risk to our troops and increase the threat of terrorism. The 4000 misplaced missiles triple the total global count of such weapons available to non-state actors:
A new government estimate says a total of 6,000 of the weapons may be outside the control of any government, up from a previous estimate of 2,000, American officials said. [NYT 11/6/04]
The GAO recently released a report on shoulder fired missiles, calculating the threat posed by the missiles and faulting poor US export controls [PDF] of the Stinger. ("The disposition of Stinger missiles sold overseas is unknown because DOD’s Stinger inventory inspection process is flawed." - GAO-04-519 p.7) [see also MSNBC, 6/4/04]

Democrats, led by Congressman Steve Israel and Sen. Barbara Boxer, have legislation to subsidize technical countermeasures for commercial aircraft, strengthen international agreements on export controls and destroy surplus stockpiles.
"Once again we learn terrorists are stockpiling, while the Bush Administration is studying," said Rep. Israel. "We must go on offense and defense at the same time to protect ourselves. We cannot afford to leave this vitally important issue to bureaucrats in the Administration. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, if this is not a clear sign that we need to equip commercial aircraft with countermeasures to protect against shoulder-fired missiles, I’m not sure what is short of a catastrophe."
More info: FAS; Wassenaar MANPADS agreement [thanks, Madeleine]; APEC agreement [PDF, p.3]; Small Arms Survey [PDF]; GAO Testimony GAO-04-592T [PDF, pp.14-15].

 

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