Study shows US weapons given to Syrian rebels ended up in ISIS hands

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Weapons the United States originally supplied to Syrian rebels have ended up in the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a study released Thursday.

A 200-paged report by Conflict Armament Research analyzed more than 40,000 weapons retrieved from ISIS in the past three years, finding cases in which the weapons were originally supplied by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Libya.

“In summary, evidence collected by [Conflict Armament Research] indicates that the United States has repeatedly diverted EU-manufactured weapons and ammunition to opposition forces in the Syrian conflict,” the report says. “[ISIS] forces rapidly gained custody of significant quantities
 of this materiel.” 


The research group detailed 12 cases of weapons that were bought by the United States and ultimately ended up in the terrorist group’s possession. 

The United States, under former President Obama, had provided rebel factions fighting the Assad regime with weapons through a covert CIA program that President Trump reportedly ended earlier this year. That program differed from the Pentagon’s train and equip program under Obama, which was focused solely on fighting ISIS.

The Trump administration in May, however, approved a plan to begin arming the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance in Syria made up of mostly Kurds and some Arab fighters, which has helped oust ISIS from its stronghold in Raqqa.

“It’s less likely weapons provided by the Pentagon made it into the hands of ISIS, as that program started in response to ISIS’s expansion and the Kurdish-dominated forces supported were not mixed alongside extremist elements,” said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Ammunition from China made up about 43 percent of what the research group recovered in Syria. Twenty-seven percent of the ammunition recovered in Iraq was Russian-made. Throughout Iraq and Syria, more than half of the ammunition the group recovered was Chinese or Russian. 

“Supplies of materiel into the Syrian conflict 
from foreign parties — notably the United States and Saudi Arabia — have indirectly allowed [ISIS] 
to obtain substantial quantities of anti-armour ammunition,” the report says.

“In particular, the impact of the group’s acquisition of anti-armour weapons on 
its operational capacity is difficult to quantify, 
but these weapons continue to pose a significant threat to coalition armoured forces,” the group adds.

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