We already knew that Iraq’s army was something of a disappointment (to put it kindly) in terms of standing up for themselves, but it seems that they may have been even more careless with the gear we gave them than was previously being reported. Vice News reveals that the Iraqi military has been given enough heavily armored Humvees to fill up the parking lots at Disneyland, but now a daunting number of them may be tooling around the desert with ISIS fighters at the wheel.
Islamic State (IS) militants may have captured as many as 2,300 US-provided armored Humvees from Iraqi armed forces when they seized Mosul in 2014, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi admitted on Sunday.
“In the collapse of Mosul, we lost a lot of weapons… We lost 2,300 Humvees in Mosul alone,” Abadi said in an interview broadcast by state run Al Iraqiya television, according to remarks carried by AFP.
IS overran Mosul, Iraq’s second city, in June 2014, routing a far larger force of 30,000 Iraqi soldiers who retreated in disarray, stripping out of their uniforms and abandoning their equipment as they fled.
This is perhaps even worse than it sounds. Reports have already come out that one of our Hummers was used in a suicide attack last month and the Kurds are seeing more and more of them flying black flags. The price tag is pretty high also. The Vice News report indicates that our last shipment of 1,000 Humvees for the Iraqis cost almost $600M. That puts the price tag for the recently abandoned rigs at well over a billion.
The units are not just armored, but equipped with machine guns. Assuming that the Iraqis left behind their ammunition stores when they stripped off their uniforms and ran for the hills, that means that the terrorist fighters are sitting on some deadly equipment which will give them a huge advantage over ground forces. (And that’s a particularly true statement if the ground forces in question tend to flee after the first shots are fired anyway.)
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I was no fan of sticking around in Iraq any longer than we did, but I obviously failed to anticipate the rise of the Islamic State. And while Iraq has always been a bit of a schizophrenic, divided state in its modern incarnation, it seemed to me as if the new central government would be able to defend themselves, at least around the capital. All of these assumptions have turned out to be bupkis. At this point, Iraq doesn’t really even seem to be a nation in the common sense of the word, and it’s close to joining Syria on the list of essentially failed states. The exit question here is whether or not we should keep shipping arms and armor into the area if we’re basically just arming the terrorists. And if not, what’s the alternative? Just let them collapse and have Iran take over the place in name as well as function?