US destroys own weaponry in Iraq

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IOL pic aug27 predator drone Associated Press Since the Obama administration began strikes in northern Iraq on August 8, US fighter jets and drones have destroyed an estimated $3m worth of Iraqi military vehicles that were provided by the United States and later seized by Islamists. File picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth

Washington - The grainy black-and-white footage shows a military vehicle, a small dark mass in the crosshairs of a US war plane, seconds before it explodes in a flash of light.

That August 16 strike in northern Iraq, shown in video released by the US military, destroyed an unknown number of Islamic State fighters and one US-made armoured vehicle with a price tag of up to $300 000.

Since the Obama administration began strikes there on August 8, US fighter jets and drones have destroyed an estimated $3 million-$4 million worth of Iraqi military vehicles that were provided by the United States and later seized by Islamists who now control a third of Iraq.

The growing tally of US-made, US-destroyed weaponry is testament to how far Iraq has veered off the course the Obama administration expected when US troops withdrew in 2011.

US officials had hoped their effort to train and arm the Iraq military, at a cost more of than $20 billion, would guarantee stability.

“When you see your own equipment blown up by US airplanes, there's this inherent feeling of defeat, even if it doesn't have an American flag on it anymore,” said Matthew Pelak, a former US infantry sergeant deployed to Iraq in 2004, and now a firefighter in New York. “It's incredibly discouraging.”

When Iraqi soldiers abandoned bases in large numbers ahead of Islamic State's advance across northern Iraq in June, they left behind guns and sophisticated fighting gear.

The administration is considering expanding its campaign against Islamic State fighters. That could mean the first US military action within Syria, where a bloody civil conflict fuelled the rise of the hardline group.

“There's a lot of frustration, a lot of disgust in fact, seeing US weapons now in enemy hands,” said US Representative Duncan Hunter, who served in Iraq. “Those resources represent American lives and American sacrifice.”

More than 4 000 US soldiers died in the Iraq war.

Military officials estimated that perhaps $3 million worth of American-supplied equipment was destroyed in over 90 air strikes in the last three weeks.

That included at least 20 US-made Humvees, and one mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP.

The low-slung Humvee, made famous early in the Iraq war when it failed to protect soldiers from roadside bombs, costs $200 000 to $300 000 new, if armoured for military use.

The hulking MRAP, designed to counter roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, can cost from $500 000 to $1 million, according to military sales records.

US strikes have also destroyed scores of trucks and other armoured vehicles officials have not identified, but some of which may have been produced in the United States.

Some of the US equipment in Iraq was given as part of the effort to rebuild Iraqi forces dissolved after the US invasion in 2003; some was bought by the oil-rich state and some was left by US forces when they withdrew. - Reuters


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