The Islamic State (ISIS) can count on one source of support for ready weapons in its brutal attempts to take over Iraq and Syria — the U.S. taxpayer.
A first-time field study report by an international weapons-tracking think tank, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), has discovered six U.S.-made and U.S.-issued M16A4 assault rifles, each stamped, “Property of U.S. Govt.,” among weapons captured by Kurdish militia battling ISIS.
The report states, “Islamic State forces have captured significant quantities of U.S.-manufactured small arms and have employed them on the battlefield.”
The rifles likely were captured by ISIS from military stockpiles when they overran cities in Iraq and Syria. The weapons originally were provided to Iraq as “part of a multibillion-dollar U.S. program to arm and train the Iraqi military,” BuzzFeed reports.
Some of the weapons’ serial numbers have been obliterated by arc welders or altered to hide their point of origin.
CAR field investigator Shawn Harris told The Washington Post, “They are transporting these weapons in batches, and have a solid organizational approach to moving these weapons around. They’re operating as professionals.”
Among the disturbing photos shown were images of heavier weapons, like 90 mm “Osa” anti-tank HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) weapons and shoulder-mounted rockets capable of destroying armored vehicles, manufactured in the former Yugoslavia and provided to the U.S.-aligned Syrian rebels in 2013 by Saudi Arabia.
The United States is considering ramping up sophisticated weapon supplies to the rebels to aid in their battle against ISIS.
One ISIS fighter was even packing a Bushmaster, a semi-automatic civilian version of the M16 rifle, manufactured by FN Manufacturing in Columbia, S.C.
“We are wondering where it could come from,” Damien Spleeters, CAR field researcher, told BuzzFeed.
Capture of the M16A4s, a 5.56 mm x 45 mm rifle, carries the disturbing implication that ISIS has also captured extensive amounts of ammunition — because those rifles rely on ammunition that is a relative rarity in the Middle East, where Russian 7.62 mm x 39 mm ammunition, used in the AK-47 assault rifle, is much more common.
“This implies that they can also rely on a steady supply of that type of ammo at the moment, probably captured in Ira,q as well,” Spleeters told BuzzFeed.
Charles Lister, a visiting fellow from the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, told the Post that ISIS appears to not be facing ammunition shortages.
“They have captured five major Syrian military bases in Syria since mid-July,” Lister told the Post. “This will likely keep their momentum going for months to come.”
When the Iraqi army fled bases under attack by ISIS, the jihadist fighters picked up the weapons they had dropped and also raided government arsenals.
ISIS “took the weapons stores of the 2nd and 3rd [Iraqi army] divisions in Mosul, the 4th division in Salah al Din, the 12th division in the areas near Kirkuk, and another division in Diyala,” Jabbar Yawar, secretary-general of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re talking about armaments for 200,000 soldiers, all from the Americans.”
This means that ISIS is capable of laying down “a colossal intensity of bullets,” Yawar told the Times.
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