In an interview with NPR, a field investigator for Conflict Armament Research (CAR) named Damien Spleeters revealed that ISIS is becoming the beneficiary of weapons coming from an increasingly prolific list of countries. Many of these weapons are not intended for ISIS but end up in their hands anyway.
Below are some excerpts from the transcript. Spleeters is very measured in his words but it doesn’t take a lot of effort to read between the lines:
SPLEETERS: Well, we found that ISIS has been moving things they captured in Iraq to Syria, and more specifically to Kobani, in a matter of weeks. For us, it was very interesting because it showed that the militants had a very flexible, very strong line of supply between the Eastern and Western front line and that for them, Kobani was already, in July, a very strategic point to take. The second thing we have found is about the ammunition ISIS has been using – so far comes from more than 20 countries. And for us, it means that the group is ready for the long haul. It’s sitting on a huge pile of ammunition, and the type of battles that we see right now in Iraq and Syria are battles of attrition in which the first to lose is the first to run out of ammunition.
Keep in mind that both the U.S. House and Senate recently voted to arm ‘vetted’ Syrian rebels. Two Republicans who voted to do so are both former military who should know better – Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
SIMON: Are these armaments that some Western country gives to either some government in the area, some army or even some non-state actor, as they’re called, and they wind up getting left behind, or they wind up getting robbed, or what happens?
SPLEETERS: There’s a lot of options here. So, for example, a state-to-state trade in which a government will sell weapons and ammunition to, for example, Syria, and then the material would be captured by ISIS. Another option, as you mentioned, is that a country in the region would supply material to another group fighting the Syrian regime, and then that material would then end up in the hand of ISIS. Or, for example, the material provided by the U.S. to Iraqi security forces that would then be captured by ISIS and used in Iraq or brought back to Syria.
SIMON: To put the fine point on it, some people might be thinking if the U.S. increases armaments to what it believes to be moderate Syrian rebel groups, based on your experience and observation, they may not remain in the hands of those groups?
SPLEETERS: Weapons and ammunition that are on the battlefield are very fluid. And depending on the material, it’s almost impossible to make sure that the end-user remains in control of the weapons and ammunition you have been providing.
The lack of intelligence in America’s political leaders is staggering.