The United States has a long history of providing military support to both governmental and rebel forces during armed conflicts abroad. This often occurs in the form of supplying munitions.
The problem is, however, that it's very hard for these forces to maintain control of these arms, and a lot of the time they end up in the wrong hands.
This has been particularly true during the War on Terror. There is evidence that the Taliban and now ISIS are fighting with weapons supplied by the United States government.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new, as there have been reports in the past of al-Qaeda and its affiliates obtaining US supplied weapons.
American tax dollars fuel the defense budget. Simply put, Americans are unwittingly paying for the weapons that terrorists use.
Here's how this has happened:
Afghanistan and the Taliban
The War in Afghanistan began in 2001, not long after 9/11. It is now the longest conflict in American history.
The United States has spent trillions of dollars on the War on Terror, much of which has gone to training and supplying the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
The problem is, a lot of the weapons the United States sends to the ANSF are going missing and likely ending up in the hands of the Taliban.
In 2009, the New York Times investigated weapons found on dead insurgents in Afghanistan. Over half of the rifle magazines examined contained rounds identical to those supplied to the ANSF by the United States.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), is a government watchdog that's overseeing American reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
According to SIGAR, there has been a tremendous lack of accountability on the part of both American and Afghan military forces in terms of keeping track of weapons supplied by the United States.
They have done a terrible job of keeping records, and apparently the ANSF has rarely taken inventory of the weapons it's received. There's been an extreme lack of oversight.
Since 2004, the US government has sent 747,000 rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns worth $626 million to Afghanistan.
If you think that number sounds excessive, that's because it is. Based on SIGAR's findings, the ANSF has received hundreds of thousands of weapons that it didn't actually need.
For example, it received 112,000 more small arms than needed, and 83,000 AK 47 assault rifles beyond what was required.
The problem is, Afghanistan has an extremely corrupt government, the people there don't like the United States and the ANSF has continuously proven that it's not trustworthy. It's entirely possible that Afghan forces are blatantly selling US-supplied weapons to the Taliban.
So why has the United States continued to send them weapons? That's a very good question without concrete answers.
Meanwhile, the Taliban is still alive and well.
There is now widespread evidence that the weapons America has supplied to both Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels are being used by ISIS.
Conflict Armament Research (CAR) is an independent company that sends investigators to conflict zones to determine the types and origins of the weapons and ammunition being used during fighting.
A recent report released by CAR has revealed that ISIS is using ammunition from 21 different countries, manufactured over the course of about 70 years (1945-2014). Moreover, CAR's findings show that the vast majority of this ammunition came from either the United States, Russia or China.
In total, 1,730 cartridges were documented, and 323 had been manufactured in the USA, 338 in the Soviet Union/Russia and 445 in China.
Correspondingly, James Bevan, CAR's director, contends:
The lesson learned here is that the defense and security forces that have been supplied ammunition by external nations really don’t have the capacity to maintain custody of that ammunition
To put it simply, when countries like the United States supply government or rebel forces with American arms, they are often stolen, taken during fighting or sold. There is no viable way to keep track of arms once you send them to another country in the midst of war.
The United States has given a great deal of material support to Iraqi defense and security forces, particularly weapons. As CAR's report reveals, ISIS obtained a large portion of these weapons when Iraqi forces abandoned them. America gave these munitions and arms to Iraq in order to give them an advantage over the insurgents. In the process, however, they seem to have done ISIS a huge favor.
The moral of the story is, when you supply weapons to forces not in your control, they could very likely end up being used by your enemy. Likewise, this issue is not limited to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, they are simply more recent examples of a widespread problem.
America's Defense Budget Is Astronomical
Accordingly, this leaves a lot of room for waste and inconsistencies. It's up to American taxpayers to demand that the government increase transparency surrounding defense spending.
There has to be greater accountability. We need to know how and why the money is spent, and what the consequences are.
Likewise, the United States exports more arms than any other country in the world. Indeed, America is putting weapons into the hands of people all across the globe.
Thus, is the United States making the world a more violent place? It's a fair question to ask.