Shiite militias say “t’anks a lot”
When will we learn our enemy’s enemy is not necessarily our friend?
Surely we learned that lesson after every war we have been in over the last thirty odd years.
American arms seem to fall with great regularity into the hands of those wanting to kill Americans and by default, us. Either by being given the arms, or being captured from militia who were given the arms. U.S. manufactured tanks have reportedly ended up in the arsenal of fighters from an umbrella organization of mostly Iran-allied Shiite militias in Iraq that have expressed hostility towards troops from the United States, according to an audit by the top inspector general (IG) for overseas operations.
Some militias from the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces/Units (PMF/U), also known as Hashd al-Shaabi, have threatened American troops in recent months, urging the United States to entirely withdraw from Iraq now that Baghdad has declared defeat over the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Although some PMU fighters fought alongside the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, some of those Shiite fighters may have American blood on their hands having clashed with the United States armed forces following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In a quarterly report issued to Congress, the Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operation (LIG-OCO), which covers activities by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Department of State (DoS), and the U.S. Agency for International Development, auditors found:
This quarter [October 1, 2-17 thru December 31, 2017] , the DoS acknowledged that some U.S.-provided military equipment sent to support the mission, including as many as nine M1 Abrams tanks, had fallen into the hands of Iranian-backed militias that fought against ISIS in Iraq. The DoS pressed the Iraqi government to prioritize the return of defense articles provided by the United States as designated in the sale agreements.
PMF units had obtained as many as nine M1 Abrams tanks. These tanks, originally provided by the United States to the Iraqi Army, included some tanks seized by the PMF from ISIS after the fall of Mosul and the second battle of Tikrit.
However, seven of the nine tanks have already been recovered, notes Foreign Policy (FP).
The auditors note that U.S. government challenges keeping track of the equipment have intensified since the start of the fight against ISIS in 2014.
Last year, the human rights group Amnesty International obtained government data showing that the U.S. Army had lost track of more than $1 billion worth of weapons and other equipment destined for local allies combating ISIS.
Amnesty suggested that the U.S. was well aware that some of the American equipment was going to PMF fighters, which Baghdad deemed an official component of the Iraqi army in 2016.
Also last year, Pentagon officials conceded some American taxpayer-funded weapons sent to Iraq to combat ISIS likely ended up in enemy hands as a result of the U.S. Army’s failure to accurately track and secure the military equipment.
The U.S. officials acknowledged that PMF troops might have also gotten their hands on the equipment the U.S. Army lost.
Foreign Policy reports:
In January 2015, a video circulated depicting an M1 flying the flag of Kataib Hezbollah, which the United States has labeled a terrorist group. A second video from February 2016 showed an M1 flying the flag of Kataib Sayyid Al Shuhada, another militia with ties to Iran.
In February 2018, the U.S. military and State Department finally admitted that pro-Iran forces were operating M1s. The militias seized some of the M1s from the Islamic State after militants captured them, a U.S. Central Command spokesperson told FP.
Despite recovering most of the thanks from the PMF forces, the United States government has pulled most of the private contractors charged with repairing and keeping the war machines running.
Now, many of Iraq’s tanks are immobilized for want of maintenance, potentially jeopardizing the country’s ongoing campaign against Islamic State militants. … Iraq bought 140 of the 63-ton M1s for $2 billion starting in 2008 in order to re-equip some armored units that previously operated Soviet-made vehicles—many of which the U.S.-led coalition destroyed when it invaded Iraq in 2003.
The U.S. has at times provided the equipment to Iraq on American taxpayer-funded loans.
In the February audit prepared for Congress, the IG points out:
During the past two fiscal years, the DoS used appropriated FMF [Foreign Military Financing] funds to underwrite loans totaling $3.8 billion to enable the Iraqi government to purchase, sustain, and maintain military vehicles, aircraft, and weapons.
Since 2012, the Pentagon has paid $320 million alone in American taxpayer funds to General Dynamics for the work starting in 2012.
However, most of the workers from the American contractor left Iraq in late December 2017.