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U.S. Forces Recover Weapons Cache in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - U.S. forces have recovered a huge cache of weapons that was given to Afghan security forces but wound up in the hands of the Taliban, a U.S. military review has found.

The Afghan army and national police have lost 13,000 weapons, 200,000 rounds of ammunition, 80 vehicles and one pair of night vision goggles, members of a U.S. task force told USA TODAY.

All the gear was bought for the Afghans by Americans, part of $330 million in weapons purchases.

Most of the weapons have been seized from the Taliban or other insurgent forces.

The review by Joint Task Force 1228 deals with weapons lost or recovered in the past 11 months.

"Most of it comes off of dead bodies," said Army Lt. Col. Michael Rayburn, who heads the task force.

The actual number of items unaccounted for will be larger, because guns and ammo have been handed over to the Afghans since 2002.

No U.S. deaths have been attributed to the weapons, but the military is aware that it may be facing its own weapons on the battlefield.

"No (American) wants to see their son or daughter killed by American weapons," said Ken Feiereisen, a civilian working with the task force.

Last year, Congress began requiring American forces in Afghanistan to better track every bullet, M-4 assault rifle and Humvee purchased by U.S. forces after similar problems with missing weaponry in Iraq.

Members of Task Force 1228 sort through weapons that Afghan security forces have seized from insurgent compounds, discovered in bazaars, taken from illegal arms sellers or recovered after battles.

At least some of the weapons were sold to the Taliban by Afghan soldiers or police officers, Army Col. Thomas Umberg said. The task force is trying to instill accountability among Afghans, who are accustomed to using and trading the many weapons that have floated through this country over the decades.

Rayburn said Afghans did not see a need to keep close track of weapons.

"They thought they were just toys and that the Americans would just keep giving them toys," he said.

"They're starting to do formal reports of what happened to their equipment," he said. "Now, if a Taliban is found with (a weapon), we can track who got it and work with the police or army to determine how it got in their hands."

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