Dude, where’s my Humvee? Iraq losing equipment to Islamic State at staggering rate

June 2, 2015
A view of humvees parked at a courtyard at Camp Liberty in Baghdad

A view of humvees parked at a courtyard at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, September 30, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen

Iraqi security forces lost 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles when Islamic State overran the northern city of Mosul in June 2014, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday in an interview with Iraqiya state television. Coupled with previous losses of American weapons, the conclusion is simple: The United States is effectively supplying Islamic State with tools of war the militant group cannot otherwise hope to acquire from its patrons.

In addition to the Humvees, Iraqi forces previously abandoned significant types and numbers of heavy weapons to Islamic State. For example, losses to Islamic State include at least 40 M1A1 main battle tanks, as well as small arms and ammunition, including 74,000 machine guns, and as many as 52 M198 howitzer mobile gun systems.

“We lost a lot of weapons,” Abadi admitted.

To help replenish Iraq’s motor pool, the U.S. State Department last year approved a sale to Iraq of 1,000 Humvees, along with their armor upgrades, machine guns and grenade launchers. The United States previously donated 250 Mine Resistant Armored Personnel carriers (MRAPs) to Iraq, plus unaccountable amounts of material left behind when American forces departed in 2011. The United States is currently in the process of moving to Iraq 175 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, 55,000 rounds of main tank-gun ammunition, $600 million in howitzers and trucks, $700 million worth of Hellfire missiles and 2,000 AT-4 rockets.

The Hellfires and AT-4’s, anti-tank weapons, are presumably going to be used to help destroy the American armor in the hands of Islamic State. The United States is also conducting air strikes to destroy weapons seized by Islamic State. It’s a surreal state of affairs in which American weaponry is being sent into Iraq to destroy American weaponry previously sent into Iraq. If a new sequel to Catch-22 were to be written, this would be the plot line.

The United States also continues to spend money on training the Iraqi military. Some 3,000 American soldiers are currently in Iraq preparing Iraqi soldiers to perhaps someday fight Islamic State; many of the Americans are conducting the training on former military bases abandoned by the United States following Gulf War 2.0. In addition, some $1.2 billion in training funds for Iraq were tucked into an omnibus spending bill that Congress passed earlier this year. This is in spite of the sad reality that from 2003 to 2011, the United States spent $25 billion training Iraqi security forces.

The return on these training investments? The Iraqi army had 30,000 soldiers in Mosul, who ran away in the face of about 1,000 Islamic State fighters. The same thing happened just a few weeks ago in Ramadi, where 10,000 Iraqi soldiers, collapsing faster than a cardboard box in the rain, fled ahead of only 400 Islamic State fighters. The Iraqis left behind more weapons.

In an interview with me a year ago, Chris Coyne, professor of economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, predicted this exact scenario well before the United States sent troops back into Iraq:

“The United States government provided significant amounts of military hardware to the Iraqi government with the intention that it would be used for good. However, during the Islamic State offensive, many of the Iraqis turned and ran, leaving behind the United States-supplied hardware. This weapons windfall may further alter the dynamics in Syria.

“Now the United States government wants to provide more military supplies to the Iraqi government to combat Islamic State. But I haven’t heard many people recognizing, let alone discussing, the potential negative unintended consequences of doing so. How do we know the weapons and supplies will be used as desired? Why should we have any confidence that supplying more military hardware to a country with a dysfunctional and ineffective government will lead to a good outcome either in Iraq or in the broader region?”

The impact of all these heavy weapons falling into Islamic State hands is significant for American foreign policy goals in the Middle East. A report prepared for the United Nations Security Council warns that Islamic State possesses sufficient reserves of small arms, ammunition and vehicles to wage its war in Syria and Iraq for two more years.

And that presumes the United States won’t be losing more tools of war to Islamic State, thanks to the Iraqi army.



We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

The Malaki government and Malaki’s masters in Tehran are responsible for alienating the Iraqi Sunnis in Al-Anbar by relieving them from the ranks of the Iraqi Army and purging them from a corrupt Shia-based government. The result was a foreign invasion of Islamic State forces from across the world. The only ddorces with enough testicular fortitude to stand up to IS are the Kurdish militias and the Sunni militias. Those two entities are the only deserving recipients of any further aid from the United States. The rest of Iraq deserves nothing–except to die on the vine, or become secondary citizens to an expanded Persia, which is about what they are now.

Posted by BroadArrow | Report as abusive

It is a tribal society in a religious war.

It is a generational war.

No one side is sustainable.

The madness of war has become crazy.

Posted by Flash1022 | Report as abusive

conspiracy theory!

Posted by mohamedmohsen | Report as abusive

Maybe the IS fighters will run into the 3,000 US MIL trainers.

Posted by LetBalanceCome | Report as abusive

Glad that someone has mentioned this madness on the part of U.S. policy and buggering the taxpayer to indirectly supply the enemy with the latest military equipment. I am not a conspiracy person, but hard to figure this out other than a systematic effort to create a more destabilized region through a common enemy that will not go away…

Posted by APTAD | Report as abusive

Shock and awe. Thanks republicans! Awesome idea, invading and de-stabilizing Iraq.

And only two trillion dollars and 4,000 U.S. service lives. Bargain!

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

The tragedy of Iraq and wider middle east is a stark example of failed western efforts of ‘nation building’ in societies that are not receptive and not capable of being democratic. Iraq, and Libya as countries were better off under their previous dictators. Syria will be better under Assad than under IS or other ‘rebels’. There was no justification for war in Iraq which was perhaps the biggest foreign policy blunder that the US initiated in its entire history.
When one looks at what is happening in Iraq, Libya and Syria and the plight of countless nationals of these countries, justice would be served if one day when Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice go before a war crimes tribunal for orchestrating crimes against humanity. One should be thankful to Putin for standing behind Syrian regime – although Assad is no saint, if Russia supported western efforts of tolling Assad, IS would have overrun the country by now.

Posted by 2229 | Report as abusive

That’s good news for the US economy.
Keep our factories humming.

Posted by BettyBoppy | Report as abusive

Sunni awakening :)

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

http://abcnews.go.com/International/stor y?id=4045471

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

and some have problem with subsidies to tsla!

Posted by pai001 | Report as abusive

what a bunch of idiots. Don’t give them anything else as they seem to be useless.

Posted by grandma1 | Report as abusive

When the US gives away military hardware to any other state why don’t they build in a remotely triggered self destruct capability. This would work for Humvees, tanks, missiles, etc. Then when the arms fall into enemy hands they could simply be destroyed without any big effort.
Too often in US foreign policy they have backed one side who later became their enemy (like Ho Chi Min and Osama bin Laden to name a couple)

Posted by TonyLaJour | Report as abusive

It is a tribal society in a religious war.It is a generational war.
Yes i agree this words, but the world is so complex, every day action action, im tired anymore. (My blog adress, im writting blog this about) http://www.alayel.com

Posted by KurumsalSeo | Report as abusive

In time of Bush “The remedy proved more harmful then decease.In time of Obama “Öne mistake lead to make many more mistakes”,the story is the same in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
Simple fact not understood by America is “The Iraq army is corrupt.The Iraq army by conscious hates Americans”
Not only money but how many precious lives of American soldiers are lost!

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive

We have political observers and advisers.We have military strategist advisers.What the hale they are doing?

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive

Sunni millitia? They are the same like moderate rebels of Syria.

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive

It is not true BroadArrow Yes Iraq army was defeated , And the defeat was the result of weakness and breach of Sunni and Kurdish officers the leaders of military units in Mosul.
previous government did not prevent Sunni to joining or serving in the army , but Sunnis refused they only need to do service in their areas close to their houses.
Now jut the public army who can defeat ISIS and none else.

Posted by alwatanea19 | Report as abusive

Heads we win, tales we win….. Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960 gave us all enough warning of what was to come.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Posted by StephenStephen | Report as abusive

America is good at believing its own BS. “Liberators not invaders. Nation building. Exceptionalism. Bringing democracy and freedom to the Middle East.” Heck, we’re still trying to get democracy right ourselves after 240 years

Posted by rowlandw | Report as abusive

2,300 armored Humvee hiding out in a place 1/2 the size of Texas. No trees no gauges no factory warehouses just sand and dirt. I goose its like bugs bunny country where Humvee are hiding in rabbet holes all over the desert. Ya sure and I believe in the Easter bunny.

Posted by Memphis787 | Report as abusive

“Maybe the IS fighters will run into the 3,000 US MIL trainers.”

That will be great. And, God willing, those 3000 US mil trainers will be trimmed down to 1000 US mil trainers. I don’t want to be too greedy.

Posted by pshr | Report as abusive

Bogus war, bogus politicians. Anyone who voted for Bush should be in serious doubt of their own intelligence by now.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

No one knows how to play army man, by himself, as much as an American, young or old!

Posted by LTED | Report as abusive

Thank you: America has seen the writing on the wall being after destroying the middle east get out when you can.

Posted by Augustbrhm | Report as abusive

Thanks for the story.

Posted by Twtr_RemainHome | Report as abusive

US taxpayer funds “ISIS” vel “AlQuida”…lost count of these names rotated by Washington

Posted by Jingan | Report as abusive

The only Iraqi government and army capable of keeping the Wahhabi Sunnis under control in Iraq was the one we removed in Gulf War II. Time for the Saudis to step up and put down their own dog.

Posted by RynoM | Report as abusive

Police station Marinka city after the liberation from Russian terrorists. June 4, 2015
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoxVqWk8 ck8

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Chasing ISIS pajamas around the desert is pointless. Let them come to power and form a central government. Then you know exactly which building to hit with a Tomahawk missile.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

The only Iraqi government and army capable of keeping the Wahhabi Sunnis under control in Iraq was the one we removed in Gulf War II. Time for Iran to step up and take over.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Shiites do not want to fight for Sunnis. Therefore, most of these weapons are likely to end up in the hands of ISIS.
This is the weirdest, Iran containment policy, ever executed!

Posted by LTED | Report as abusive


Posted by Twtr_RemainHome | Report as abusive

Maybe Cheney and the republican geniuses could offer some advice…. on how to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East.


Warned you republicans about this in 2003.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

But, somebody over there must still have Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” … God, I love spin doctors!

Posted by feniks_r | Report as abusive

the scary part is this if terrorist have these weapons how do we know their not in crates on a barge somewhere heading back to the united states with trained drivers etc this could pose a problem if our own weapons were used against us

Posted by peace233 | Report as abusive

Talk about a gold mine for the arms manufacturers. Beats the heck out of planned obsolescence.

Posted by TexasFirst | Report as abusive

170,000 troops to zero. Maybe the reasons there were 170,000 didn’t suddenly disappear. One way to find out is to go to zero and see if everything collapses. Then again maybe that’s not the smartest thing to do if collapse is not acceptable.

Posted by SaigonQ2 | Report as abusive

Great article. Exactly as I suspected but there is more. It would not be outrageous that the Iraqi army willingly deserted on purpose, on command. This is a whole new kind of arms trafficking.
What a nice cozy military industrial circle. Arm the enemy, justify more force, need for more weapons and support services.
Cheney is grinning quietly..Bush still looks cheerful and clueless.

Posted by YRaj | Report as abusive

The 25 billion dollars spent in Iraq for training does not mean the training was ineffective. The military did not train the right people and the command structure and system of incentives in the military and government were not properly designed.

Posted by agamemnus | Report as abusive