The Pentagon acknowledged on Monday that Iraqi forces could have discovered a cache of U.S. weapons and missiles seized by Islamic State (IS) militants operating in the country, according to U.S. officials and regional media reports.
Iraqi forces combatting IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) are said to have found a stockpile of U.S. weapons, including ammunition and anti-armor missiles, hidden at sites controlled by terrorist forces, according to foreign military sources who spoke to Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency. This is said to include a "huge volume" of advanced TOW II anti-tank missiles.
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When asked to address the reports on Monday, a Pentagon official acknowledged that U.S. weapons had gone missing last year, but denied that the United States was intentionally arming IS or its affiliates in the region.
"As you may recall, when ISIL overran Iraqi positions last year, we were aware of ISIL capturing some Iraqi weapons and equipment that had been supplied by the U.S. to Iraqi forces," the official said. "However, the claims that U.S. and Coalition forces are directly supplying ISIL with any weapons, equipment, or ammunition are completely false."
Fars claimed the U.S. weapons and ammunition were discovered over the weekend near the Iraqi city of Fallujah and that they had been "airdropped" into the area by American forces.
"The military hardware and weapons had been airdropped by the U.S.-led warplanes and choppers for the ISIL in the nearby areas of Beiji," a military source was quoted as telling Fars.
The U.S. defense official rejected this claim, calling it "nothing more than propaganda intended to mislead readers about the true nature of the coalition's efforts to support our Iraqi partners and defeat ISIL."
Another Pentagon official noted that Iran often disseminates these types of reports and officials "regularly have to correct the record."
Iraqi sources had claimed over the weekend that U.S. shipments had been spotted being sent to IS, though the claims could not be verified. Videos disseminated via Twitter appear to show Iraqis digging through U.S. supply crates.
The claims follow months of speculation among some Iraqis that the United States is wrongly arming terrorist forces in the country.
Such claims are a sign of a growing propaganda war on both sides of the fight, with the United States working to dampen conspiracies about its supposed support for IS.
Iranian officials and the country’s media outlets have attempted to perpetuate this narrative.
Fars quoted an Iraqi official earlier this year who claimed that U.S. aircraft were dropping food and weapons for forces believed to be affiliated with IS.
"The U.S. planes have dropped weapons for the ISIL terrorists in the areas under ISIL control and even in those areas that have been recently liberated from the ISIL control to encourage the terrorists to return to those places," Jafar al-Jaberi, a coordinator for the Iraqi popular forces, was quoted as telling the outlet.
Meanwhile, U.S. coalition forces continue to strike IS positions.
The Pentagon announced on Sunday that it had conducted 17 airstrikes in Iraq and another seven in Syria.
"The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community," the Pentagon said. "The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations."