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Home > Politics > Weapons Inspector Kay: Explosives missing a “result of not having enough troops on the ground”

Weapons Inspector Kay: Explosives missing a “result of not having enough troops on the ground”

[ Rumsfeld’s plan to “take” Iraq with a minimum number of U.S. troops — against the advice of the military leadership — has probably helped terrorists gain access to unguarded explosives south of Baghdad. From the piece:

“[T]he U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency confirmed Monday that about 380 tons of explosives are missing from an Iraqi military complex” ….

David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, said he was not at all surprised at the report, which was initially revealed in Monday’s New York Times.

“Al-Qaqaa had been heavily looted in April and May,” said Kay, who left Iraq at the end of 2003 after reaching the conclusion that the country did not have weapons of mass destruction. Kay, who first visited Al-Qaqaa as a U.N. inspector in 1991, said the facility was not guarded after the U.S.-led invasion in early 2003 and was not being guarded when he left Iraq.

“The extraordinary thing would be to find a site that was really guarded,” Kay said. But, he added, the facilities were numerous and often encompassed hundreds of acres.

“There weren’t enough troops to guard the ministry buildings,” Kay said. “It’s a result of not having enough troops on the ground. And it would have been a very large number. This is not a small thing.”

–BL ]

U.N. agency confirms missing explosives in Iraq as issue enters the campaign

26 October 2004 | Cox News Service

by George Edmonson

WASHINGTON — As the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency confirmed Monday that about 380 tons of explosives are missing from an Iraqi military complex, the issue quickly moved into the presidential campaign.

Democratic candidate John Kerry called it “one of the great additional blunders of Iraq.” A top Kerry aide labeled it “a catastrophic failure” and “evidence of incompetence of the highest order.”

President Bush’s chief spokesman said the first priority for munitions in Iraq was dealing with the risk of nuclear proliferation.

“There is not a nuclear proliferation risk,” Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with the president. Bush, speaking at a campaign rally in Colorado, did not address the missing explosives, but said Kerry “has a strategy of pessimism and retreat” on Iraq.

Several Democratic lawmakers, such as Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, issued statements expressing concern.

“We had a responsibility to secure the facility that stored these lethal materials, not just for the protection of our troops in Iraq, but for the security of Americans here at home and abroad,” Rockefeller said.

The Multinational Force in Iraq and the Iraq Survey Group, the U.S.-led body that has been searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, are looking into the issue of the missing explosives, said Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman.

McClellan said protecting the sites currently is the role of the Iraqi interim government.

The 380 tons of explosives that had been stored at Al-Qaqaa about 30 miles south of Baghdad are the only pure explosives that have been reported missing to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, a spokeswoman said from its headquarters in Vienna.

The agency was notified because some of the material at Al-Qaqaa, once a site for former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program, was under IAEA supervision.

The types of missing explosives — known as HMX and RDX — are highly potent. They can be used to detonate nuclear weapons and have been linked to a number of large terrorist attacks.

Iraq’s Ministry of Science and Technology notified the IAEA by letter on Oct. 10 that the explosives were missing, the spokeswoman said. The agency’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei (CQ), will send a letter to the U.N. Security Council this week informing it of the situation.

David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, said he was not at all surprised at the report, which was initially revealed in Monday’s New York Times.

“Al-Qaqaa had been heavily looted in April and May,” said Kay, who left Iraq at the end of 2003 after reaching the conclusion that the country did not have weapons of mass destruction. Kay, who first visited Al-Qaqaa as a U.N. inspector in 1991, said the facility was not guarded after the U.S.-led invasion in early 2003 and was not being guarded when he left Iraq.

“The extraordinary thing would be to find a site that was really guarded,” Kay said. But, he added, the facilities were numerous and often encompassed hundreds of acres.

“There weren’t enough troops to guard the ministry buildings,” Kay said. “It’s a result of not having enough troops on the ground. And it would have been a very large number. This is not a small thing.”

Ereli said the United Stated “did everything we could” to secure caches of arms in Iraq. “But given the number of arms and the number of caches and the extent of militarization of Iraq,” he added, “it was impossible to provide 100 percent security for 100 percent of the sites, quite frankly.”

Kay said members of the Iraqi Survey Group found HMX at two other sites, though not in the quantity reported missing from Al-Qaqaa.

Noting that the missing material would be enough to fill a convoy of almost 40 10-ton military trucks, Kay said he believed that the explosives likely were removed in a variety of ways rather than all at once. He said looting in Iraq was widespread and on-going throughout his tenure in the country.

“Anything that looked valuable was stolen,” he said.

According to McClellan, the Iraqi governing body told the IAEA that the explosives had disappeared sometime after April 2003. Then, he said, the agency informed the U.S. mission in Vienna on Oct. 15 and Condoleezza Rice, the president’s national security adviser, was notified some days later. McClellan said she told Bush about it at a morning briefing shortly afterward.

The spokesman also told reporters that in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, there were a number of important priorities, ranging from munitions caches to the fear of refugees fleeing the country, from potential devastation of the oil fields to mass starvation.

McClellan also cited the latest report on Iraq’s weapons that said more than 243,000 tons of munitions had been destroyed and nearly 163,000 tons were awaiting destruction.

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