“We were informed that the [U.S. government] shut the program down until such time [as] the few M1s are returned to us,” Foreign Policy quoted a contractor who wished to remain anonymous as saying.
The contractor told FP many of the M1s are “not battle-ready” and two of the tanks remain unaccounted for.
At least one such tank was destroyed by the Kurdish Peshmerga upon approaching the Pirde (or Altun Kupri) border-crossing between Erbil and Kirkuk provinces last October.
“As recipients of US-origin defense equipment, Iraqi authorities have an obligation to adhere to end-use requirements as outlined in agreements concluded with the United States government,” a CENTCOM spokesperson told FP.
Peshmerga claimed the day-long fight resulted in 150 casualties (killed and injured) among the attacking forces, while they lost 6 Peshmerga.
Kurdish forces at the time wondered about the use of American weapons and tanks against their forces by the Iraqi army and Hashd. The Kurdish Peshmerga dismissed accusations that they had used German-supplied MILAN anti-tank missiles to disable the vehicle.
Iraqi Security Forces and the Iran-backed Hashd did not advance past the Pirde bridge after it was destroyed. Pirde connects the provincial capitals of Erbil and Kirkuk. The latter is a disputed or Kurdistani area claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.
Not long after the Pirde battle, a burned-out tank showed up at a General Dynamics’ facility in Iraq, the contractor told FP.
Through the ISIS conflict, the US-led coalition repeatedly said it could not work with Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries. Several of the groups continue to be backed by Iran and participated in the takeover of Kirkuk.
The US Inspector General admitted in a December report, “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 ISIS in Iraq.”
The United States began paying Michigan-based General Dynamics, the Abrams manufacturer, $320 million to repair the tanks in Iraq in 2012. Iraq purchased 140 of the main battle tanks during the insurgency in 2008 for $2 billion.