In January the U.S. Central Command announced that U.S. and coalition airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria destroyed some 184 Humvees, 58 tanks and nearly 700 other vehicles. The number of ISIS military vehicles destroyed may seem significant, but is really just a drop in the bucket compared to the militants’ overall firepower.
While specific numbers are difficult to come by, reports suggest that ISIS has a huge fleet of vehicles – including tanks – its possession. Last year, for example, the jihadists captured 2,300 Humvees from Iraqi forces when they captured the city of Mosul, some of which were then converted to armored vehicles.
Unlike traditional nation states ISIS doesn’t produce tanks or other weapons in factories, and unlike past insurgent forces that were supported by a nation state ISIS isn’t being armed or equipped by a major power either. Yet the group’s fleet of vehicles continues to grow. In May ISIS captured U.S.-built equipment, including M1A1 tanks after the group took control of the town of Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. The militants’ haul reportedly included about 100 wheeled vehicles and dozens of tracked vehicles.
There should be concern that ISIS has become so well armed, experts warn. In addition to modern military hardware, militants have also captured Cold War-era weaponry from Syrian forces. The nation was supported throughout the Cold War by the Soviet Union and built up vast quantities of Warsaw Pact armaments. Today those weapons – everything from AK-47 assault rifles to T-72 main battle tanks – are being utilized by all sides in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
“Syrian rebel groups probably make the most extensive use of heavy equipment at the moment, thanks largely to battlefield successes,” Jeremy Binnie, Middle East/Africa Editor for IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, told FoxNews.com. “But that is also a product of the Syrian military’s vast inventory of Soviet-era weapons and equipment, (as well as) its inability to destroy this materiel after it has been captured.”