Days after the United States pledged to supply the Iraqi military with more modern equipment, ISIS used American equipment abandoned by fleeing Iraqis to commit a suicide attack on an important ammunition depot.
On Monday, ISIS suicide bombers driving Humvees, stolen from the Iraqi military and rigged with explosives, killed 45 Iraqi soldiers, including several high-ranking officers, in the Anbar province, according to Iraqi officials.
On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced ISIS captured 2,300 Humvees when they took Mosul last June. Most of those vehicles were provided by the United States, and, presumably, some of those Humvees were used in Monday’s suicide attack.
ISIS has been able to gain momentum thanks to the equipment and funds they have been able to acquire as they push through Iraq. ISIS combines this strategy of repurposing stolen Iraqi equipment with oil-smuggling, black-market drug trading, and extortion. ISIS is one of the best-funded, best-equipped terror organizations in history.
Iraqi troops fled from Ramadi in a panic, abandoning thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment in their frantic retreat. A half-dozen tanks, armored personnel carriers, and several artillery pieces were left behind, U.S. military officials said.
Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said that it would have been “Certainly preferable if [the equipment] had been destroyed [by the fleeing Iraqis]; in this case, they were not.”
Last Sunday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the biggest problem the Iraqis face in the war against ISIS is not a lack of modern equipment, but rather a general lack of morale in the ISF.
“What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered,” Carter said on CNN’s State of the Union. “In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight and defend themselves.”
During the nation-building program which followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. spent over $20 billion to equip the Iraqi security forces.
Carter, however, backpedalled on his comments criticizing the Iraqis’ morale last Thursday, after they caused a small diplomatic scuffle. Iraqi officials and high-level White House officials, including the Vice President, called Carter’s initial statements a mischaracterization of the situation overseas.
Instead, Carter suggested that the administration believes what the Iraqi military needs to effectively fight ISIS is more funds for training and equipment.
“Those are the kinds of things the team back home is looking at,” Carter told media.