The capture of a senior ISIS operative involved in the organization’s chemical weapons program gives the United States an edge over the militants in its fight against terror.
According to the Guardian, U.S. special forces captured a man called “Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, who worked for Saddam Hussein’s now-dissolved Military Industrialization Authority where he specialized in chemical and biological weapons.”
Reportedly, 50-year-old al-Afari “leads the Islamic State’s branch for the recently established research and development of chemical weapons.” He is allegedly the second ISIS chemical weapon specialist captured and held by the U.S. since coalition airstrikes started against the terrorist group.
Chemical weapons experts have determined that mustard gas was used in a Syrian town where Islamic State... https://t.co/m6jfg4Fch2— Nerti U. Qatja (@nertiqatja) February 21, 2016
Reports mention the Islamic State’s use of toxic chemicals, such as sulfur mustard, in Iraq and Syria, but there are no reliable indications on the extent of use and casualties. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reportedly tracks the use of mustard agents in Syria and Iraq and feeds the U.S. intelligence about other possible attacks.
According to Fox News, “The confirmation of mustard gas use came during Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he spoke to the Islamic State’s growing sophistication online and in the battlefield.”
The United States also believes the Syrian regime under President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons against its opponents and civilians despite the commitment to reduce its stockpile under international agreements two years ago.
It is still not clear how the Islamic State acquired the chemical weapons. Reports mention possibilities that they acquired it or developed it on their own.
The latest findings makes the United States and Europe apprehensive on ISIS launching large-scale chemical weapons attacks. Whether ISIS is already thinking on these lines is under investigation. The immediate concern is the continued chemical warfare in Iraq and Syria.
Sulfur mustard, a banned substance, has a narrow chemical-warfare application. It is made in relatively small quantities and has a fairly short shelf life. For a massive chemical weapons attack, ISIS would need expertise, equipment, and a well-coordinated supply chain.
Reports show that ISIS has used biological weapons, including as mustard gas projectiles, against Kurdish forces.
Daesh terrorists reclaimed large tracts of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The group took advantage of instability in Syria and made inroads in Iraq to destabilize the Shiite-led government. Armed with an apocalyptic ideology, the militants committed heinous war crimes against all ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East, which include Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians.
Now, the goal of the United States coalition is to destroy ISIS’ entire chemical weapons arsenal, especially mustard agents, which ISIS reportedly manufactures. The targets include militants, facilities, and vehicles.
The U.S. war on ISIS chemical weapons is fraught with hurdles because of the sophisticated use of modern communications and social media propaganda that influences recruits from beyond the Middle East. The threat goes beyond the war zones in the Middle East.
The Wall Street Journal quoted the head of the U.S. armed forces in the Middle East, Gen. Lloyd Austin.
“It will require a lot of work, it will require the government to work together much more, much better than what we’ve seen them do up to this point.”
Time will tell whether the Western coalition would manage to destroy the threat of chemical weapons by the Islamic State.
[Photo by Scott Nelson/Getty Images]