ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Nine Abrams tanks the United States had provided to Iraqi forces for the battle against the Islamic State (IS) are now in the hands of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias, a US military audit confirmed.
A quarterly inspector general report for the US mission in Iraq and Syria, released on Feb. 2, confirms that M1 Abrams battle tanks and other lethal equipment provided to the Iraqi government by Washington have ended up with the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
“The US Department of State acknowledged that some US-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 [IS] in Iraq,” the report read.
The report added that the Department of State pressed the Iraqi government to prioritize the return of defense articles provided by the US as designated in the sale agreements.
In late January, Iraq-based al-Ghad Press claimed that American company General Dynamics, who produces the Abrams tanks, had suspended its maintenance program in Iraq over the Hashd al-Shaabi’s possession of one of the US-made tanks.
“The US tank company [General Dynamics] withdrew from its base in Baghdad’s al-Muthanna airport after finding out that Iraq violated the terms of the contract which only authorized the Iraqi army to use the US provided tanks,” the report stated.
Al-Ghad Press also said the company had threatened “a final withdrawal” from Iraq if it was proven that Iran, which backs the Hashd al-Shaabi, had reproduced the tank.
However, when asked to confirm the reports, a State Department official told Kurdistan 24, “The Abrams maintenance program for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) is still currently active, and there is no plan to discontinue it in the near future.”
Meanwhile, the inspector general report added that “Iran continued to exert influence in Iraq through its relationships with some Shia militias belonging to the PMF.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany