Sophisticated weapons the U.S. military secretly provided to Syrian rebels quickly fell into the hands of the Islamic State, a study released Thursday disclosed.
The report said the Islamic State’s possession of these weapons remains a threat to the U.S.-led coalition still operating against the terror group in Iraq and Syria.
The arms included anti-tank weapons purchased by the United States that ended up in possession of the Islamic State within two months of leaving the factory, according to the study by Conflict Armament Research, an organization that tracks arms shipments. The study was funded by the European Union and German government.
Efforts by the United States and other countries to supply weapons to rebel groups “have significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to (Islamic State) forces,” the report concluded.
The study examined 40,000 weapons and other items recovered from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, during the past three years. The militants have been retreating across Iraq and Syria as U.S.-backed forces have routed them from their strongholds.
Investigators were unable to determine whether ISIS captured the weapons on the battlefield or whether the rebels sold or gave the arms to the terror group.
The report cites an ISIS propaganda video showing militants with weapons captured last year from the New Syrian Army, an alliance of fighters battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
It has long been known that ISIS captured a huge amount of American weapons —including tanks and artillery — when the militant group swept into Iraq from Syria in 2014 and routed several divisions of Iraqi soldiers, many who abandoned their weapons and fled.
The new study raises questions about a different source for weapons: arms secretly sent to rebel factions fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad in his long civil war. The covert CIA program, begun by the Obama administration in 2013, was ended earlier this year by President Trump. Saudi Arabia, which — like the U.S. — strongly opposes Assad, also supplies weapons to rebel groups.
The CIA declined to comment on the report.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jim Michaels