FLASHBACK: U.S. Shoots Itself In the Foot By Accidentally Arming ISIS
By Eric Pianin
One of the earliest major setbacks in the war against ISIS came last June when the U.S.-backed Iraqi army was routed by Islamic militants in the northern Iraq city of Mosul. Government forces retreated from the Islamic jihadists’ assault. They left behind a trove of costly military hardware, including U.S.-made armored Humvees, trucks, rockets, machine guns and even a helicopter.
Last weekend, the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, gave Iraqi state television the first detailed accounting of those lost weapons. Some were old or barely functioning, but others were in good shape and of great value to the ISIS militants.
According to Reuters, the U.S.-made weaponry that fell into enemy hands including 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles, at least 40 M1A1 main battle tanks, 74,000 machine guns, and as many as 52 M198 howitzer mobile gun systems, plus small arms and ammunition.
Although al-Abadi and other Iraqi and U.S. officials haven’t attached a dollar sign to the lost weaponry and vehicles, a back-of-the-envelope calculation of those losses might look something like this:
- 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles @ $70,000 per copy. Total: $161 million
- 40 M1A1 Abram tanks @ $4.3 million per copy. Total: $172 million
- 52 M198 Howitzer mobile gun systems @ $527,337 per copy. Total: $27.4 million
- 74,000 Army machine guns @ $4,000 per copy. Total: $296 million
The grand total comes to $656.4 million, but experts say those losses represent just a portion of the many hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-supplied military equipment that has fallen into ISIS’s hands and is being used against the U.S. and allied forces on the ground in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
ISIS added to its armada of captured U.S. military vehicles and tanks when Iraqi Security Forces fled the provincial capital of Ramadi late last month and left behind their equipment, according to Military.com. A Pentagon spokesman said that some artillery pieces had been left behind, but he could not say exactly how many. He said about 100 wheeled vehicles and dozens of tracked vehicles were lost to ISIS when the last remaining Iraqi defenders abandoned the city, which is 60 miles west of Baghdad.
With hundreds of millions of dollars that they stole from banks and businesses, and profits from the black market sale of oil, ISIS has amassed a huge arsenal of weaponry, including heavy armored vehicles and artillery during its two-year offensive in Syria and Iraq. According to the International Business Times, the armaments “are predominantly a mix of veteran Soviet tanks, large, advanced U.S.-made systems, and black market arms.”
James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, warned last year that ISIS had
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