Looted Explosives In Iraq Still A Threat

Thursday, March 22nd 2007, 12:00 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Explosives looted from Iraq munitions sites will likely continue to support terrorist attacks throughout the region, a congressional report said Thursday, finding that some sites were still not secured more than three and a half years after the war started.

Failure to guard the sites ``has been costly,'' the Government Accountability Office report said, noting looted munitions are being used to make roadside bombs, the No. 1 killer of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Quoting from previous Defense Department reports, the GAO study says widespread looting occurred after the fall of Baghdad in early 2003 because war planners didn't put enough troops into the country to secure weapons depots and because officials incorrectly assumed, among other things, that Iraqi soldiers would surrender and help with security.

The report recommended that the Pentagon do an Iraq-wide survey of unsecured sites and factor already identified lessons learned into future war planning.

Defense officials said Thursday they would have no comment beyond what the department said in the report. That is that commanders are aware of the problem, have done similar surveys over the past three years and don't have the manpower for a new one without harming the war effort.

The report is an unclassified version of a classified study compiled from November 2005 through October 2006. At the time it was completed, U.S. commanders in Iraq ``stated that some remote sites have not been revisited to verify if they pose any residual risk, nor have they been physically secured.''

``Estimates indicate that the looted munitions will likely continue to support terrorist attacks throughout the region,'' the report said. The military ``has taken many actions'' in response to the problem but they're only ``good first steps'' that need to be encased in procedures for the future, it said.