Iraqi forces trained, funded by U.S. under investigation for war crimes

The Iraqi government is conducting an investigation into U.S.-trained and -armed Iraqi military units in light of substantial evidence that many have and are engaged in human rights violations. As reported by ABC News, images and videos shared on social media since last summer appear to show uniformed Iraqi soldiers, many from elite units, and militia groups “massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads.”

Human rights advocates and military experts are calling the photos and videos evidence of “war crimes.” According to the Pentagon, many Iraqi units have already been cut off from receiving U.S. assistance over the allegations.

The Iraqi military is on the front lines of the battle against ISIS, and is a key part of the U.S.’s strategy to stop the terrorist organization. The U.S. has sent nearly $1 billion in weapons to newly-formed Iraqi units, in addition to providing training. The U.S. does not, however, decide to which units donated weapons are distributed, and many have ended up in the hands of what some in U.S. and Iraqi military circles are calling “dirty brigades.”

Personal Instagram accounts of “dirty brigade” troops have shown an alarming amount of evidence that these counter-terrorism units are committing many of the same atrocities as the ISIS groups they are tasked with combatting.

A photo posted in September shows the severed head of an alleged ISIS fighter tied to the grill of a U.S.-donated Humvee bearing an Iraqi Army license plate. Other photos revealed what appeared to be Iraqi soldiers posed with other severed heads, both holding and stepping on them.

A 78-second video that circulated in January showed a mix of uniformed army and militia forces questioning a handcuffed, terrified teenage boy, before shoving him to the ground and shooting him to death to “avenge the martyrs.” Another shows two unarmed civilians shot to death after being questioned, and denying, that they were members of ISIS.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities are investigating whether the images could be fabricated ISIS propaganda, but separate reports by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, condemning the “extra-judicial killing” of ISIS operatives at the hands of Iraqi forces, combined with the recent actions of the Pentagon to withhold funding, suggest the photos and videos are legit.