Sunday, November 28, 2010

Will Iraq Be Able To Keep Its M1A1 Abrams Tanks And Other Major Equipment Running?

The Iraqi government is currently receiving 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks from the United States. Baghdad also wants to buy 18 F-16 fighters. This is part of the Defense Ministry’s plans to shift from internal counterinsurgency operations to external defense by 2020. Iraq could face a major obstacle in achieving this goal, which is unless it budgets for maintenance, all of this equipment could go for naught.

Maintenance is one of the institutional problems that Iraq’s security forces face. The contracts for American equipment go through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. The deals include spare parts, but do not include maintenance. The Iraqi forces already have a bad habit of running vehicles until they break, and then cannibalizing parts from others rather than doing preventive maintenance. The June 2010 Department of Defense’s “Measuring Stability and Security In Iraq” report warned that the Defense Ministry doesn’t have the ability to sustain major equipment. That’s because it lacks the funds to train and maintain workers for the task, and lacks long-term contracts for repairs. Currently 70-80% of the Ministry of Defense’s budget goes to salaries and basic supplies such as food, water, etc. for the troops. Much of the rest is spent on purchasing major pieces of hardware such as the Abrams tanks. That leaves little money for repair work. Earlier reports from April and July 2009 by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction also noted that that U.S. had turned over maintenance facilities to the Iraqis as part of their withdrawal plan even though the Iraqis couldn’t operate them, and that the Defense Ministry showed no commitment to send soldiers for training in repairs either. All of these factors undercut Iraq’s ability to have a self-sustaining military.

All together this could threaten the long-term use of the Abrams tanks, F-16 fighters, and any other sophisticated equipment that Iraq wants to buy. Unless Baghdad makes a commitment to maintain these weapons, and budgets the necessary funds for that task, many of these hi-tech systems could end up in the scrap heap. That would make Iraq a weak country that is open to influence by its more powerful neighbors, and extend the time that Baghdad looks towards the Americans for protection rather than being able to defend itself.


Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq June 2010,” 9/7/10

International Crisis Group, “Loose Ends: Iraq’s Security Forces Between U.S. Drawdown And Withdrawal,” 10/26/10

Najm, Hayder, “iraq’s soldiers not ready to take over security,” Niqash, 8/19/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Developing A Depot Maintenance Capability At Taji Hampered By Numerous Problems,” 7/30/09
- “Security Forces Logistics Contract Experienced Certain Cost, Outcome, and Oversight Problems,” 4/26/09

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