Air Commodore (Retd) Khalid Iqbal
It is rather worrisome to observe that large quantities of weapons have gone missing in Afghanistan. Over 72,000 American supplied AK-47s, hundreds of heavy machine guns and Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers delivered to Afghan police are not traceable. Concerns are being aired that bulk of these missing weapons might have ended up in the hands of terrorists, while several thousand could have been intentionally smuggled into Pakistan for strengthening the terrorist elements. This proposition about the disposal of stolen weapons is plausible and bothersome.
Americans follow a stringent system for ensuring the security of weapons. They use a sophisticated tracking system to continuously register the precise location of each weapon held on the inventories of various security outfits. This helps in recovering the weapons which go missing or fall in the hands of adversaries during combat. Presumably, same procedures should have been in vogue for the missing weapons of Afghan police as well.
Hence, one could assume that this saga of theft of weapon at such a large scale could not accomplish without the connivance of insiders, because weapon tracking system must have been initially blinded and then disabled before such an action of theft; and this could not be done by illiterate and poorly skilled recruits of Afghan police.
While reporting the incident, American military newspaper ‘Stars and Stripes’ has quoted ‘NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan’ as saying that a massive hunt is on for tens of thousands of rifles, machine guns and RPG launchers that the U.S. government procured for the Afghan National Police but are unaccounted for.”
This training mission is responsible for training security personnel in Afghanistan. A major bulk of its activities is out sourced to private contractors of the category of Black Water/ XE Services etc, operating under various brands. These agencies have their trans-border agenda extending into various countries of the region. Personnel employed by these outfits are known for their criminal record and blatant violation of rules and regulations. Hence, the loss of weapons could be a part of planned pilferage by these security contractor agencies for some illegitimate activities elsewhere.
In the recent past, fingers have been pointed towards some of these entities for their dubious presence and clandestine activities in Pakistan. In all probability, XE Services, the company formerly known as Black Water, has been conducting false flag terrorist attacks in Pakistan that are later blamed on Pakistani Taliban.
One could also speculate that due to overwhelming sympathy within the security apparatus of Afghanistan for the political struggle against the presence of foreign armed forces in Afghanistan, the missing weapons could have been intentionally and systematically passed on of to ‘freedom fighters’.
Another cause of such occurrences could be the reality that personnel of security forces of Afghanistan are highly politicised and alarmingly undisciplined. During Poppy sowing and harvesting season they desert their units in droves to earn lucrative compensations offered by drug barons to agricultural workers engaged for Poppy cultivation. As the seasons for sowing and harvesting of Poppy end, these guys return to their units, and they are happily allowed to resume their security related functions. Incidents regarding selling of weapons by the personnel of Afghan security forces also surface frequently.
Yet another plausible reasoning could be that it may be a handiwork of a grand mafia working in Afghanistan with the help of Indian intelligence, transporting arms and drugs into Pakistan as well as into some Central Asian states.
Circumstantial evidence confirms delivery of fresh weapons to terrorists of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Recent surge in terrorist activities in Pakistan is an indicator in this regard. During recent weeks there have been around ten acts of terrorism conducted inside Pakistan, by these foreign backed terrorists.
Pakistan has recently complained to Western states about the support provided to anti-Pakistan terrorists’ networks in Afghanistan, but ISAF/NATO officials are reluctant to take necessary action to curb infiltration of men and weapons from Afghanistan into Pakistan. This is not the first time that weapons that go missing in Afghanistan have reached Pakistan. During military operations by the armed forces of Pakistan in Malakand and Swat areas, it was found that such flow of weapons is the mainstay of military power of terrorist outfits, which carry out subversive activities in various parts of Pakistan. ISAF/NATO certainly need to do more in the context of physical security of these small weapons which provide a source of sustenance to terrorist activities in Pakistan.
India is not far behind Americans in misplacing the instruments of death. After all it must copy each and every action of America in a run up to its quest for super power status. Some 61 trucks loaded with over 300 tons of explosives went missing in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, a couple of weeks ago.
These trucks were sent from a government factory, ‘Rajasthan Explosives and Chemicals Limited’, to a private company called ‘Ganesh Explosives’, the convoy went missing enroute. Convoy of 61 trucks is a huge thing; it could not disappear just like that.
Normally, explosive containers move under stringent security arrangements. No encounter between security personnel and ‘highjackers’ was reported. All this happened quietly and smoothly like a well rehearsed military drill.
Apparently it is another gimmick of Indian intelligence agencies; which could use these lethal explosives to stage manage an event and then blame Pakistan for it. Rumours have it that forthcoming “Common Wealth Games” could be one such venue. Moreover, Indian support to various terrorist outfits in Pakistan is an open secret.
At this critical stage of Afghan conflict, when draw down of foreign forces is around the corner, one needs to watch out for oozing out of auxiliary conflicts in the region. Some of these could be stage managed by various actors to gain strategic space within the overall settlement framework of Afghan conflict; others could be ignited by those disgruntled entities that have been marginalized and wish to act as spoilers.
Small arms proliferation alongside drug trafficking is the lifeline of terrorist outfits and under world mafias. There is need for stringent multi-state measures to break this nexus for achieving sustainable peace in South Asia.
Air Cdre Khalid is Masters in Political Science along with War and Strategic Studies. He has also done Air War Course, Fellow of Air War College. Instructor’s Course. Senior Command & Staff course. Combat Commander’s Course. He has been a Directing Staff at various institutions of Pakistan Air Force. Presently he is a visitng faculty at:
- PAF air War College (Staff Wing &War Wing).
- School of Army Air Defence.
- Naval War College, Lahore.
Quaid-i- Azam University (DSS Department).
Now Air Cdre Khalid is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker