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The US Funneled Weapons Into The Fight Against ISIS. They Only Ended Up Making The Militants Stronger
Ever since President Barack Obama launched Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in 2014, U.S. military personnel and their regional allies have increasingly been forced to stare down the barrels of their own weapons. An exhaustive new investigation of ISIS weapons caches details just how many small arms and ammo caches are falling into terrorist hands — and highlights the Department of Defense’s cavalier attitude towards funneling weapons there, helping to fuel what investigators called “[an] industrial revolution of terrorism.”
According to a lengthy report by arms control group Conflict Armament Research conducted over three years and published on Dec. 14, lax oversight of foreign-made weapons by the U.S. and its allies has resulted in a massive influx of powerful arms and ammo into Iraq and Syria.
While ISIS captured “significant quantities” of NATO weaponry after routing Iraqi security forces and looting weapons depots in 2014, 90% of the 40,000 firearms and ammo caches documented by CAR originated in Russia, China, and other countries that produced Warsaw Pact-era weaponry — weapons purchased by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and EU member states and then acquired by ISIS, as predicted, through the the unauthorized transfer of weapons originally supplied to the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S. coalition’s primary regional ally in the anti-ISIS campaign.
“International weapon supplies to factions in the Syrian conflict have significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to IS forces—in numbers far beyond those that would have been available to the group through battlefield capture alone,” according to the report. “These findings are a stark reminder of the contradictions inherent in supplying weapons into armed conflicts in which multiple competing and overlapping non-state armed groups operate.”
But beyond putting anti-tank rockets and high-powered sniper rifles into the hands of ISIS militants, there’s another major strategic consequence: The U.S. and its allies have been inadvertently giving ISIS the raw materials to create its own industrial base — an essential organ for the decentralized terror network’s guerrilla campaign, despite the loss of its strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa.
Conflict Armament Research documentation locations visits in Iraq and Syria between July 2014 and November 2017Map via Conflict Armament Research
During its visits to 111 sites along the front lines in Iraq and Syria, CAR’s field investigation teams discovered evidence that ISIS cells “have relied on a steady stream of commercial products and explosive goods to construct unprecedented numbers of IEDs,” including chemical explosive precursors, detonating equipment, and various containers consistent with IEDs deployed against coalition forces since 2014.
While most of the materials appear to have been acquired from sellers in Turkey, the quantities of chemicals and lengthy time frame of the sales suggest that ISIS fighters “have a robust supply chain, whereby the group can repeatedly procure chemicals from the same supplier,” according to the CAR report.
The ease with which ISIS can acquire raw materials — and, in turn, repurpose U.S.-supplied weapons — suggests that equipment secretly sent to Syrian rebels by the U.S. and Saudis fueled an “industrial revolution” for the terror network, as lead investigator Damien Spleeters told Wired magazine the day before CAR released its report.
The magazine, which accompanied Spleeters on a site visit to Tal Afar after ISIS’s expulsion from the Iraqi city, called the equipment and materials abandoned by fleeing militants indicators of “a significant escalation of its ambition and ability” for the group:
The aluminum paste in the bucket, for example, which ISIS craftsmen mix with ammonium nitrate to make a potent main charge for mortars and rocket warheads: Spleeters discovered the same buckets, from the same manufacturers and chemical distributors, in Fallujah, Tikrit, and Mosul.
That, Spleeters said, suggests ISIS has a big industrial base and supply of materiel. He’s also been piecing together the sources for ISIS’s modified rockets, ubiquitous in propaganda videos, which carry warheads that Spleeter suspects were given to Syrian forces by the U.S. and its allies.
A breakdown of the various weapons documented by Conflict Armament Research in Iraq and SyriaChart via Conflict Armament Research
It’s hard to overstate how significant the entire CAR report is. Enemy recoveries of U.S.-distributed weapons and equipment have been well-documented over the years in a growing body of DoD reports on the use and abuse of equipment transfers by regional partners — particularly the perennially corrupt Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
But since the beginning of OIR, ISIS’s bogarting of U.S. arms has been detailed primarily through anecdotal evidence by U.S. troops downrange. In August, Iraqi security forces turned up an FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile and launcher while expelling militants from the strategically crucial city of Tal Afar; the next month, an ISIS propaganda video captured a jihadi sniper touting a 7.62mm Mk 14 Enhanced Battle Rifle, a staple of the group’s arsenal since at least 2015.
Whether by defeat, capture, or betrayal, weapons originally given to the SDF are ending up in ISIS hands despite the DoD’s promise in June to “keep account of every single weapon supplied to the SDF and ensure that they’re not pointed at anyone except [ISIS].”
But previous weapons losses were apparently not strong enough to persuade the White House to cease funneling both NATO-standard and Soviet-style arms to Syrian fighters. Indeed, the 2018 budget allocates an extra $500 million to funnel more weapons to Syrian Kurds — arms and ammo bound for temporary facilities, which the DoD knows local security forces often won’t even let U.S. military personnel inspect.
Obviously, the U.S. still has a major advantage when it comes President Donald Trump’s prime strategy of “bombing the shit” out of terrorists. In August, coalition aircraft deployed some 5,075 munitions on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, the most in a single month since the beginning of OIR. But as U.S.-aligned Iraqi and Syrian forces declare victory over ISIS, the CAR report suggests that the militants won’t go down easy — and that’s a mess of the U.S.’s own making.
Read the whole report from Conflict Armament Research below:
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.