A new report from a prominent London-based human rights organization has divulged that ISIS has built a significant arsenal, which includes US-made weapons obtained from the Iraqi army and Syrian opposition groups.
In its 44-page report, “Taking Stock: The Arming of Islamic State,” released late Monday, Amnesty International states that a big chunk of ISIS’ ammunition and equipment comes from the captured stockpiles of US-allied Iraqi military and Syrian rebels.
Patrick Wilcken, Researcher on Arms Control, Security Trade and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said, “The vast and varied weaponry being used by the armed group calling itself Islamic State is a textbook case of how reckless arms trading fuels atrocities on a massive scale. Poor regulation and lack of oversight of the immense arms flows into Iraq going back decades have given IS and other armed groups a bonanza of unprecedented access to firepower.”
This is further compounded by the “multiple failures to manage arms imports” during the US-led occupation of Iraq after 2003 and the “lax controls over military stockpiles and endemic corruption by successive Iraqi governments,” according to the report.
The data on ISIS’ inventory in the report was taken from a study commissioned by Amnesty International and carried out by Armament Research Services (ARES), drawing on analysis of thousands of images, hundreds of video clips, sources within Iraq and Syria, correspondence with governments, official reports, confidential sources, and a wide range of open-source materials.
The huge supply of weaponry has enabled ISIS to carry out its abominable abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, resulting in a mass exodus of people and forcing them to become refugees.
The findings come as President Barack Obama has recommitted to depending on regional forces, including the Iraqis, Kurds, and Syrian opposition, in trying to wipe out ISIS rather than committing significant numbers of U.S. ground troops.
Obama said in a speech on Sunday, “The strategy that we are using now — airstrikes, (U.S.) Special Forces and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country — that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory. And it won’t require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil.”
The ISIS arsenal of weapons consists of stockpiles from around 25 countries, including the US.
The Amnesty report states that arms and ammunition used by ISIS have been traced to at least 25 different countries. They include man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), guided anti-tank missiles, and armored fighting vehicles, as well as assault rifles like the Russian AK series and the US M16 and Bushmaster, as part of its advanced weaponry. The conventional weapons being used by ISIS fighters mostly date from the 1970s to the 1990s, when Iraq was engaged in a massive military buildup ahead of and during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
ISIS also gained access to weapons from other sources, particularly from the capture or sale of Syrian military stocks and arms supplied to armed opposition groups in Syria by countries like Turkey, the Gulf States, and the USA.
The report calls for “deeper institutional risk assessments” for arms export, “denial rule on the export arms to the Iraqi Government,” “cease all transfers of arms to the Syrian government,” and “complying with the United Nations Security Council arms embargo on ISIS,” among its recommendations.
Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger Cabiness told the CNN that the US closely monitors equipment it provides to its partners in order “to prevent and detect illegal transfers to third parties, in order to protect American technology, and, where relevant, to ensure partner compliance with requirements placed on all recipients of U.S. defense articles.”
However, while responding to the report, the Pentagon admitted that these monitoring programs don’t apply to US weapons and equipment that is lost on the battlefield.
The Amnesty International report questions on the credibility and dependability of the US and other states in controlling and auditing its weapons base in the Middle East and elsewhere and asks for a fresh perspective on security under the current world scene.