U.S.-made military vehicles captured from Iraq are now being used by militants in northern Syria, Reuters is reporting.
Iconic utility trucks, known as Humvees, and other vehicles are in the possession of fighters aligned with the al Qaeda-splinter group Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, or ISIL, according to the news agency, citing information from the British-based monitoring organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A spokesperson for the monitoring organization didn't immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.
The light-duty trucks made by AM General LLC, based in South Bend, Indiana, may have been raided from Iraq's Second Division in Mosul, which included a motorized brigade and several infantry brigades, according to Fox News.
ISIL militants routed Iraqi forces in that key northern city and Nineveh Province capital earlier this month and have since taken control of towns in Anbar Province, giving them freedom to navigate across the northwestern border into Syria, where rebels are waging a three-year-old civil war to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
It remains unclear how many and what types of vehicles and equipment the fighters have captured from Iraqi forces. The Defense Department referred questions about the matter to the Iraqi military. "DoD is not in a position to provide information on the status of Iraqi military equipment," Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman at the Pentagon, said in an e-mail. "You would have to ask the Iraqis."
A spokesperson at the Iraqi embassy in Washington, D.C., didn't immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment. The country is believed to have upwards of 10,000 Humvees left over from the U.S.-led war there that began in 2003 and ended in 2011.
A spokesman for the manufacturer also didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
ISIL, also known as ISIS, has touted on social media sites such as Twitter its capture of the equipment, which appears to include Humvees, blast-resistant trucks and tanks.
One taunting post features an edited version of the mournful image of First Lady Michelle Obama holding a note after the suspected kidnapping of girls in Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram. But instead of "#Bring Back Our Girls," the text has been changed to "#BringBack Our Humvee."
There are questions about what, if any, strategic advantages the vehicles offer the militants, who may not be able to keep them operational in the long-term without ready access to spare parts and supplies. Regardless, the coup raises serious doubts about Iraqi forces' ability to safeguard their weapons and equipment.
The government of Iraq has sought to rebuild its military in part with American-made equipment, including M1 Abrams tanks made by General Dynamics Corp., F-16 fighter jets and C-130 cargo planes made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and air defense systems.
As of 2012, the Pentagon’s $11.6 billion foreign military sales program with Iraq was the fourth-largest in the region and the ninth-largest in the world, Pentagon officials have said.
The U.S. since 2005 has offered Iraq some $35 billion in weapons and services, though only about $8 billion of that involve deals implemented or approved by the U.S. government, according to research by William Hartung, an author and director at the Center for International Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.
Some of the high-profile sales to Iraq have included 140 M1 Abrams tanks, 18 F-16s (with a pending order for another 18 of the jets), six C-130s, and other aircraft and combat vehicles, according to Hartung.