In its efforts to supply so-called ‘moderate’ or ‘anti-government’ groups in Syria, it looks like the USA and Europe ended up supplying ISIS and other radicals instead. The Telegraph reports:
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants relied heavily on guns and ammunition produced by Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Germany, a report released on Thursday by Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an international organisation that documents weapons trafficking in war zones, revealed.
. . .
Their 200-page report provides the most comprehensive, verified study of the group’s weapons to date, presenting an analysis of more than 40,000 items recovered from Isil forces over three years.
It concludes that international weapon supplies intended for rebel factions in the Syrian conflict ended up with Isil, “significantly augmenting the quantity and quality of weapons in its arsenal”.
In the early phase of the conflict, most of the group’s cache had been captured from Iraqi and Syrian forces. But from the end of 2015, CAR started to see another significant source – factories in Eastern Europe.
The weapons and ammunition was being manufactured in Europe, sold to the US and Saudi Arabia, and transported across the Turkish border into Syria.
They said supplies of weapons by the Washington and Riyadh to Syrian opposition groups indirectly allowed Isil to obtain a substantial amount of sophisticated anti-armour ammunition and anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW), which have then been used against coalition forces they support.
“Time and again, states that seek to accomplish short-term political objectives supply weapons to groups over whom they exert little to no control,” said James Bevan, the executive director of CAR. “These weapons often gravitate to the most organised and effective rebel and insurgent forces.”
In one case CAR tracked a number of advanced ATGWs. Using their production numbers they discovered they were manufactured in the EU, sold to the US, which supplied them to an opposition group in Syria, where they were then transferred to Isil fighters in Iraq.
The full chain of transactions occurred within two months of the weapons’ dispatch from the factory.
In another instance, in October 2014, Romania sold 9,252 rocket-propelled grenades, known as PG-9s, to the US military.
The grenades were sent by the US to Jaysh Suriyah al-Jadid, a Syrian militia armed and trained by America to fight Isil in the east of the country.
But somehow, PG-9s from this same shipment made their way to neighbouring Iraq, where Isil experts separated the stolen warheads from the original rocket motors before adding new features that made them better suited for urban combat such as the battle for Mosul.
There’s more at the link.
There’s nothing new about this sort of thing, of course. I can recall black-painted C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft arriving in the dead of night in the African bush, laden with weapons for pro-US movements in their fight against Communist-dominated governments in more than one country. During the 1980’s, the USA supplied Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to UNITA in Angola, under the strict condition that they not be allowed to fall into the hands of its South African allies. That didn’t stop several of the missiles from making their way to a very interested technical analysis team in Pretoria, along with SA-7, SA-8, SA-9, SA-14 and SA-16 missiles captured from Angolan forces. (The Russian manufacturer of the SA-16 later proudly referenced South African tests showing ‘the Igla’s superiority over the … Stinger missile’. That amuses the heck out of me, since I watched some of those tests! Yes, the SA-16 [which appeared to copy many features of the Stinger, leading us to nickname it, in pidgin Russian, the ‘Stingerski’] did appear to be a more capable missile at the time.)
There’s no easy way to avoid arming one’s enemies in such a confused situation. One either accepts that risk, or withholds arms altogether. The latter is safer, but can get one’s allies chopped up by other groups whose supporters are less scrupulous about providing weapons.