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How did a US anti-tank missile end up in ISIS’ hands 2 months after US Army received it?

The TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) is an American anti-tank missile. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
December 14, 2017

The Conflict Armament Research (CAR) organization released a report this week after closely tracking ISIS’ weapons over the past three years.

Among its findings were that a U.S. anti-tank missile ended up in the Islamic State’s hands less than two months after the U.S. Army purchased it, CAR said.

The report “is the result of more than three years of field investigation into Islamic State supply chains,” CAR said. “It presents an analysis of more than 40,000 items recovered from the group between 2014 and 2017. These items encompass weapons, ammunition, and the traceable components and chemical precursors used by the group to manufacture improvised explosive devices.”

CAR found that there was one U.S. Army anti-tank missile in ISIS’ recovered weapons that made its way to the terrorist group 59 days after the U.S. Army purchased it, the arms-tracking group said.

But, CAR also pointed out that the U.S. was responsible for manufacturing only a small percentage of weapons – 2 percent – recovered from ISIS in the region (Iraq and Syria).

In order to trace the weapons’ origins and determine how ISIS came to have them in its possession, CAR tracked weapons by their serial numbers or markings.

“Some of the weapons found on the front lines after ISIS was driven out also include Chinese-manufactured machine guns laced with amphetamines, drones modified in sophisticated terrorist factories and even a rifle made in Nazi Germany,” NBC reported.

The supply chain has been examined before, and the timeline of the U.S. anti-tank missile, for example, is “extremely short,” CAR’s Damien Spleeters told NBC.

“It means that there are not many intermediaries in this chain of custody,” he explained.

CAR (Twitter)

The U.S. has supplied weapons to Syrian groups who are fighting against President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s regime, as well as to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to fight ISIS.

“[…] CAR says there is evidence that many weapons obtained by various Syrian rebel groups supported by the U.S. were diverted to ISIS,” NBC reported. ISIS likely stole some of the weapons from militaries and might have purchased others.

A Defense Department spokesman, Eric Pahon, told NBC: “Any alleged misuse or diversion of U.S. support will be taken seriously and lead to the possible curtailment of support, if verified.”

“The CIA ran a covert program for arming some rebel groups fighting Syrian regime forces until the Trump administration reportedly axed it in July. U.S. government and military officials have declined to ever confirm the existence of the CIA program on the record, though President Donald Trump tweeted about it this year,” NBC reported.

Regarding ammunition used by ISIS, CAR said:

In contrast to weapons, however, the ammunition holdings are significantly newer. While weapons manufactured in the current decade (2010–17) comprise less than 2 per cent of the group’s total weapon holdings, more than 15 per cent of the group’s ammunition dates from the 2010–17 period. There are also pronounced differences in the types of ammunition deployed by the group on either side of the Iraq–Syria border, which broadly reflect differences in the suppliers of ammunition to the Iraqi and Syrian governments. […]

The largest part of ammunition held by the group originated in three producer countries: China and Russia—in almost equal proportions—and Romania.