Monday, June 30, 2014

ISIS: How the Islamic State grew so strong

Iraq: How the Islamic State grew so strong

...In the current IS-led thrust, the scenario played out earlier by Sunni insurgents in western Iraq has been replicated on a monumental scale.
...Rival Syrian rebel factions already report seeing US-built, IS-commandeered Humvees almost as far east as the vicinity of Aleppo, 400km from Iraq. The influx of arms and fighters from Iraq could shift the balance of power among fractious rebel groups fighting for supremacy in Syria.
IS, which also reportedly snatched the equivalent of close to $500 million (Dh1.83 billion) in cash from a Mosul bank, has been catapulted to the position of the world’s wealthiest and best-equipped militant group, analysts say. Its riches easily eclipse those of Al Qaida under Osama Bin Laden, despite his personal fortune. The group, which has attracted thousands of fighters from the Arab world, Europe and elsewhere, also controls a broad swath of contiguous territory in the heart of the Middle East.
“IS are well-trained, very capable, and have advanced weapons systems that they know how to use,” said Michael Stephens, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies.
Government forces retreated en masse from the onslaught, leaving behind a military hardware bonanza, including the US-made armoured Humvees as well as trucks, rockets, artillery pieces, rifles, ammunition and even a helicopter. Some of the seized materiel was old or otherwise non-functioning; but a lot was promptly put to use on the battlefield.
Pictures of grinning Islamist warriors cruising in US Humvees bedecked with white-on-black militant flags flooded the Internet and became the signature image of the IS campaign.
Though IS initially encountered little opposition from the Iraqi army in central and western Iraq, the insurgents have not directly challenged Kurdish troops known as the peshmerga who control a more than 600-mile front in northern Iraq.
Stretching from the Syrian to Iranian borders, this territory is protected by the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government. Iraqi soldiers who once patrolled much of the line retreated and are now found only along about a 56-km stretch close to Iran, according to Kurdish security officials.
IS “took the weapons stores of the 2nd and 3rd (Iraqi army) divisions in Mosul, the 4th division in Salah Al Deen, the 12th division in the areas near Kirkuk, and another division in Diyala,” said Jabbar Yawar, secretary-general of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. On a map, he indicated an arc denoting various provinces and cities strung across northern and central Iraq.
“We’re talking about armaments for 200,000 soldiers, all from the Americans,” Yawar said.

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