Reports emerging from mainstream sites such as USA Today, BuzzFeed, and Reuters that weapons purchased by the American CIA ended up in the hands of ISIS fighters is not a surprise to many who previously reported the phenomenon. While the latest reports tend to err on the side of this exchange of arms being accidental, older reports point to secretive systems that allowed for access to high-caliber weaponry by jihadis. Through the lens of those reports, the likelihood that ISIS soldiers would get their hands on weapons purchased by American intelligence outlets was foreseeable, and therefore preventable.
The latest reports have been sparked by the findings of a Conflict Armament Research (CAR) report that documents three years’ worth of findings from its field investigation team. The report relies upon analyses of more than 40,000 weapons whose serial numbers and other traceable components were linked back to their original purchasers between 2014 and 2017. Some of the most alarming conclusions center around the rapidity with which high-grade weapons came into the possession of ISIS militants. In one instance, anti-tank weaponry fell into ISIS fighters’ hands only two months after they were assembled. While ISIS’ retreat has been well documented, the CAR report states that American-bought weapons supplies “have significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to (Islamic State) forces.”
The possibilities of how anti-tank missiles ended up in the possession of ISIS fighters come down to a few possibilities when the issue is examined through the viewfinder of mainstream sources.
‘Investigators were unable to determine whether ISIS captured the weapons on the battlefield or whether the rebels sold or gave the arms to the terror group.’ (USA Today)
Either non-ISIS affiliated rebels killed while using the weapons were overtaken and stripped of their arms, or those rebels turned on their American backers, choosing to arm those ISIS fighters the American-bought arms. Only two plausible options, right? Official reports would seem to back up this assertion.
‘It has long been known that ISIS captured a huge amount of American weapons —including tanks and artillery — when the militant group swept into Iraq from Syria in 2014 and routed several divisions of Iraqi soldiers, many who abandoned their weapons and fled.’ (USA Today)
While it’s impossible to know precisely how the ISIS fighters got their hands on the weapons, origins of the weapons that the most vaunted terror organization since al-Qaeda managed to take into their possession have come into question. Whether they were supplied via Saudi Arabia or via the covert, CIA-managed operation begun by President Obama in 2013 – a program distinctly different from the more above-board arming of anti-Assad Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – remains unclear. The covert nature of this operation, which was ended by President Trump earlier this year, and questions asking why a mysterious rebel group aside from the SDF was necessary to arm, has contributed to criticism of the operation and opened, in the minds of theorists, a third possibility for how ISIS came to get their hands on American-bought weapons.
‘The report did not find any evidence of SDF weapons falling into ISIS' hands, as was the case with anti-Assad rebels. The Pentagon has said it carefully tracks weapons it provides to the Syrian Democratic Forces.’ (USA Today)
It’s fair to ask: a) why weren’t weapons supplied to rebels traceable and b) if the SDF was capable of hanging onto the weapons supplied by American forces, why weren’t the armed rebels? This would imply that either the rebels were an inferior fighting force – and therefore not worth trusting with American arms – or that, as has been posited, they turned over these weapons to ISIS fighters willfully.
Which brings us to the third possibility. It has been argued by sources from outlets as mainstream as the BBC that ‘Britain and the West embarked on an unspoken alliance of convenience with militant jihadi groups in an attempt to bring down the Assad regime.’
The assertion will, to most, qualify as blasphemy on its face. Most would understandably balk at the notion that either Britain or the United States, let alone both, would enter into a pact with a jihadi group, even against a leader as loathed as Bashar Assad. To those who tend to connect dots that may or may not be there, the ‘jihadi group’ most active in taking down Bashar Assad in Syria would be none other than ISIS.
Remember when we equipped and trained Osama bin-Laden? Is the possibility so far-fetched as to defy possibility?
Again, this is conjecture, but the ability of the SDF to retain their arms, the covert nature of the Syrian rebel armament, and the inability – or unwillingness – to trace weapons doled out to these cloaked rebel groups provides more questions than answers. Additionally, the swiftness with which weapons supplied to unnamed rebel groups fell into the hands of ISIS fighters is of note. All of this, and the stated mission of the sitting American administration in removing the Assad regime, makes one wonder.
Is a third possibility of how American arms fell into ISIS’ control a plausible one?