Revelations keep pouring in about the uneasy relationship between Western aid givers and ISIS operators: from bribes given by humanitarian convoys to secure access in war-torn Syria, to food and medical equipment appropriated by Islamists and used to provide basic services to the population under its control. Moreover, USAID personnel working in the area have to be vetted by ISIS: “There is always at least one ISIS person on the payroll; they force people on us” one aid worker told the Daily Beast earlier this month.
This is just the start.
As the Islamic State makes inroads into Iraqi and Syrian territory, it’s becoming increasingly clear that American promises to ‘degrade, and ultimately destroy’ the jihadists ring ever more hollow. Lax supervision, half-hearted pledges, chaotic supply chains and a dumbfounding lack of understanding of the regional context has laid bare the stark disconnect between the strongly-worded ad-libs of Western leaders and the response on the ground.
The Iraqi army, a $20 billion-plus affair that was supposed to be the bulwark against insurgents, have either fled, joined the ranks of the terrorists, or are awaiting training in the barracks. As it turns out, American advisors still have to prepare the remaining 26 brigades that pledge allegiance to Baghdad.
In June, when the bulk of the Iraqi army surrendered in the battle for Mosul, an unknown number of US-supplied arms, Humvees, rockets and helicopters were captured by Isis. According to Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst speaking to the Wall Street Journal in July, Iraq lost ‘three divisions worth of equipment’, including T-55 tanks, rocket-propelled grenades and Howitzers. To this line-up, Isis added an extra seven M1 Abrams tanks, captured from three ex-Iraqi army bases in the Anbar province.