Tag Archives: Iraqi Army

US-Funded Iraqi Army Spent Over $380 Million Per Year Paying 50,000 Nonexistent Soldiers

Newly-elected Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Sunday that his administration has stopped payment on salaries that were being issued to at least 50,000 nonexistent soldiers, previously believed to be among the ranks of the Iraqi army. According to BBC News, the fake names on the Iraqi army’s roster included deserters and soldiers who were killed in action. Abadi administration officials believe that corrupt officers may have been leaving the names on the roster in an effort to steal their salaries.

Under previous Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi army crumbled in the face of ISIS, as four if its fourteen divisions collapsed during June clashes. Haider al-Abadi previously promised that, as prime minister, he would clean up the Iraqi army. Now in office, Abadi has offered his investigation into the fraudulent salary claims as a first step.

The Washington Post noted that officials said that the Iraqi government, which pays $600 per month to its troops, has been wasting at least $380 million per year on the misappropriated payments. “It could be more than triple this number… The people who are responsible for this should be punished. Iraq’s safe has been emptied,” said Hamid ­al-Mutlaq from the Council of Representatives of Iraq’s defense and security committee.

US taxpayers have already spent over $20 billion dollars in an attempt to strengthen the failing Iraqi military, and, according to Foreign Policy, the Pentagon is planning to request $1.6 billion more from Congress in an effort to build nine new Iraqi army brigades. The Obama administration has also requested $24 million in US taxpayer funds to train and equip Sunni tribal fighters that claim to oppose ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that training and equipping Sunni fighters is a slow process because “we do not want to just give weapons randomly.” When ISIS attacked Mosul last June, many Iraqi soldiers deserted and reportedly left US weapons behind for ISIS fighters to seize.

According to analysis by an anonymous US defense official quoted by The Washington Post, the fact that Iraqi troop numbers were falsely inflated may have contributed to the Iraqi army’s failure in the face of ISIS, as generals on the ground may have planned on having more troops than were actually available. Allegedly, some brigades only had half as many troops as were listed on their rosters, possibly giving generals false confidence that their brigades were strong enough to handle tasks better suited for a larger force.

Did the US Train ISIS Rebels to Fight Against Assad in Syria?

Special note: the above Fox News video, from 2013, references the existence of a US-led training program in Jordan aimed at strengthening the Syrian opposition against Assad, which some have alleged might have equipped ISIS fighters with the tactics they are currently using against the US-trained Iraqi Army.

Iraq has fallen into total disarray, with a rebel group called ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, having conquered broad sections of the nation, along with a significant amount of territory in neighboring Syria. Though the Iraqi military claims to have ISIS contained, clashes are currently taking place within 140 miles of Baghdad. The US is sending ground troops back to Iraq, and officials representing the government of the war-torn nation have asked the US to provide air support against ISIS.

However, is it possible that the very rebels fighting against the US-backed government in Iraq were trained by American forces in an effort to strengthen the Free Syrian Army’s rebellion against Assad in Syria? Back in March of 2013, Reuters reported that the German magazine Der Spiegel published an account by organizers of the Syrian rebellion claiming that US trainers, some wearing uniforms, were seen providing anti-tank training in Jordan to anti-Assad forces. Though the article mentioned that the training program was meant to exclude radicals that might turn against locals in Jordan, it is challenging to run background checks on everyone who joins a rebel group. Also, individuals who seemed ideologically moderate at one time could later on join a group like ISIS, especially considering its escalating momentum.

In January of 2014, a rift formed between members of the Syrian rebellion and ISIS, largely over tactics. However, ISIS has been successful in its military campaign against the Iraqi government, and this has led its ranks to grow. It’s difficult to know whether the rebels allegedly trained by the US in Jordan have since joined ISIS, but The Washington Post is reporting that ISIS just released a new propaganda video touting its American-style military tactics. The video not only shows a capable military force with mature training, but it also contains footage of rebel fighters using an anti-tank guided missile system.

It is tough to conclusively prove whether or not ISIS fighters were the individuals being trained by the US in Jordan. However, the group’s beginnings lie in the Syrian rebellion, and its military tactics look distinctly American. The latest ISIS propaganda video even demonstrates sophisticated anti-tank tactics, which were the focus of the alleged 2013 training session in Jordan. The division between other Syrian rebel groups and ISIS didn’t grow until January of 2014, several months after Der Spiegel‘s report. The Guardian also corroborated Der Spiegel‘s assertions, noting that special operators from the US, UK, and France were working together in Jordan to strengthen the Syrian opposition and that anti-aircraft missiles, like those seen in ISIS’ new propaganda video, were being funneled over the border from Turkey to Syrian fighters. An Associated Press article referenced by CBS News also noted the existence of the training program.

At this point, not enough clear evidence exists to confirm or deny the rumors that the US might have inadvertently provided ISIS with the training to defeat US-trained forces in Iraq. However, this would not be the first time American tactics and weapons have been found on both sides of a conflict. Also, ISIS’ latest propaganda video demonstrates a tactically mature force using anti-tank weapons, which was the specific focus of the alleged training session in Jordan. When the fog of war clears, it is entirely possible that history will reflect that the US inadvertently armed and trained the very opposition group that would later undo all of its efforts to strengthen the government in Iraq.