Friday, July 9, 2010

First Abrams Tanks To Arrive In Iraq By August 2010

The United States military announced on June 30, 2010 that the first shipment of M1A1 Abrams Tanks ordered by Iraq are due to arrive by the end of this summer. In July 2008 Iraq officially requested to buy 140 M1A1 Abrams  and the associated support equipment and vehicles for $150.5 million from General Dynamics. The first 11 tanks and one recovery vehicle are scheduled to land in Iraq by August. The rest will be delivered by the end of December. The tanks will go to Iraq’s 9th Mechanized Division, the nation’s only armored unit. The division currently has T-72 tanks donated by NATO member Hungary and older T-55s. Iraqis have been training on Abrams tanks donated by the U.S. since 2009. (1) So far 65 tank crews have been readied.

The Abrams tanks will be a huge step towards modernizing the Iraqi Army, and making it capable of defending the country, but it will also pose major challenges. Today, Iraq’s military is largely incapable of taking on most foreign countries, and is focused upon counterinsurgency rather than national defense. The Abrams tanks will move the country towards that latter goal. On the downside, the Iraqis will be largely incapable of maintaining these tanks on their own, continuing their dependence upon foreign assistance. The Americans have been attempting to build up the Iraqi military’s logistics and maintenance capabilities for quite some time, but it has run into huge problems. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction for example, carried out two audits in 2009 that found that there was no commitment by Baghdad to create a self-sufficient security force. Iraq’s Defense Ministry has refused to take responsibility for the maintenance programs set up by the Americans, the Iraqi Army has never sent enough troops to be trained for supply, logistics, and repair work, those that did show up often left, and none were held responsible for doing so. Iraqis have also shown an antipathy towards high technology, and the Abrams tanks are some of the most sophisticated in the world. Foreign contractors will therefore have to be hired by the Defense Ministry to keep up these vehicles for years to come. The Abrams tanks are an important move for maintaining the security of Iraq, but they also show the country’s inability to do so on its own.

FOOTNOTES

1. Alsumaria, “Iraq requests 140 additional Abrams tanks,” 3/24/09

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Iraq requests 140 additional Abrams tanks,” 3/24/09

Aze, David, “Iraqi Tanks Target Mosul,” Danger Room, 1/28/08

Defense Industry Daily, “M1 Abrams Tanks for Iraq,” 12/29/09

Elliott, DJ, “Iraq Order of Battle,” Montrose Toast, 6/30/10

United States Forces – Iraq, “Iraq-purchased M1A1s roll off production line, head to Iraq,” 6/30/10

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