Thursday, 23 October 2014

America's war against Isis

Isis claims it has US airdrop of weapons intended for Kurds

  • Pentagon investigating claims but admits one load missing and it would be embarrassing if it ended up in terror group’s hands
  • Turkey criticises arms airdrops saying the strategy will never lead to desired results

21 October, 2014

A US airdrop of arms to besieged Kurds in Kobani appears to have missed its target and ended up in the hands of Islamic State (Isis) militants.

Video footage released by Isis shows what appears to be one of its fighters for in desert scrubland with a stack of boxes attached to a parachute. The boxes are opened to show an array of weapons, some rusty, some new. A canister is broken out to reveal a hand grenade.

The Pentagon said it was investigating the claim but admitted that one of its airdrops had gone missing. If confirmed, it would be an embarrassment for the US, given the advanced technology available to its air force.

The seemingly bungled airdrop comes against a steady stream of US-supplied weapons being lost to Isis forces, mainly from the dysfunctional Iraqi army. Isis is reported to have stolen seven American M1 Abrams tanks from three Iraqi army bases in Anbar province last week.

A spokesman for the Pentagon, Rear Admiral John Kirby, told reporters that analysts at Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida, were examining the video. “We’re still taking a look at it and assessing the validity of it,” he said. “So I honestly don’t know if that was one of the one dropped.”

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the US air drops as a whole, saying it was “wrong” that weapons had indeed fallen into the hands of Isis, as well as the Kurdish fighters they were intended for. Turkey’s government sees the fighters as part of the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a faction that has battled for self-rule in Turkey for over three decades.

It has become clear that this was wrong,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara. “It’s impossible to achieve results with such an operation,” he dded.

In an abrupt shift, Turkey agreed on Monday to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross its territory and reinforce fellow Kurds in the besieged town of Kobani, but did not comment on whether it backed the air drops.

The US has dropped munitions, supplied by Kurdish authorities in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq, to their compatriots in Kobani, which sits close to the Iraqi-Turkish border; Isis fighters have encircled much of the town.

Kirby confirmed the weapons shown in the video were the kind that were dropped. “So it’s not out of the realm of the possibility in that regard,” he said.

I do want to add, though, that we are very confident that the vast majority of the bundles did end up in the right hands. In fact, we’re only aware of one bundle that did not.”

The airdrops were carried out by three C-130 planes. The video shows a man in camouflage clothes and balaclava looking through the boxes of munitions. He says they were dropped by US forces and had been intended for the Kurds. He described them as the spoils of war.

As well as grenades, the boxes appeared to contain parts for rocket-propelled grenades. Some of the equipment appears to be east European in origin, which might seem odd given the weapons were dropped by Americans, but the munitions were supplied by the Kurdish authorities who had been stocking up.

Kirby said the situation in Kobani remained tense, with Kurdish forces in control of most of the city. The US-led coalition has mounted more than 130 air strikes round the town in an effort to stop Isis taking complete control.

While the US has carried out air strikes in Kobani, cloud cover last week prevented them hitting much of the rest of Iraq, particularly around the contested Mosul dam. If the dam was to fall to Isis, it would provide huge leverage for the group.

Britain has been supplying the Kurdish semi-autonomous region with weapons but so far supplies have been limited. Kurds report receiving about 40 heavy machine guns but say they need heavier equipment, in particular armoured vehicles.

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