US fuels Syrian War With New Arms Supplies to Al Qaeda Terrorists

by Dilyana Gaytandhzieva, published on ArmsWatch, June 21, 2021

And you thought the war on Syria was pretty much over, but here we are.   This is particularly interesting in light of the recent Frontline interview with Mohammed al-Jolani, head of Hayt-al-Tahrir (ie. Jabhat-al-Nusra, ie. Al Qaeda in Syria), who is now running Idlib Province in Syria which remains occupied by Hayt-al-Tahrir.  Jolani started his career as ISIS second in command before he broke with Abu Bakr Al-Bagdhadi in Raqqa and moved to Idlib to form Al Nusra Front.  Dilyana (who is in Bulgaria) apparently doesn’t to know about this recent warming up to Jolani by the U.S. media because her stated concern at the outset is the fact that he and his organization are on the designated terrorist list.  However, her story would certainly align with this open support for him in the United States.  Read this report from the Grayzone for more on that subject.

Dilyana began following this story when she found a huge stash of weapons made in Bulgaria while reporting from post-liberation Aleppo back in 2016.  As usual, Dilyana has all the documentation posted in this article on ArmsWatch.com but I am only going to include samples in this location. Click on the images to read them. [jb]

The Pentagon is buying $2.8 billion worth of weapons for conflict zones around the world. Most of the weapons are destined for Syria.

A number of propaganda videos published by Hayt Tahrir Al-Sham (formerly known as Al Nusra Front – the Al Qaeda branch in Syria) show the terrorists already being supplied with sophisticated American TOW anti-tank missiles.

TOW missiles

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists formerly known as Al Nusra Front (the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria) fire an American TOW anti-tank missile at Syrian Arab Army soldiers in Idlib province, killing eight of them. Source: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham propaganda video.  [you can see the video on ArmsWatch in the original report.]

The US has designated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as a terrorist organization. However, US missiles appear on the front line in Syria being used by the same group designated as terrorist organisation.

A US-made TOW missile system seized by Syrian troops during their offensive in Urum al-Kubra in the de-escalation zone of Idlib. The province is under the control of the terrorist group HTS. (Telegram)

These TOW weapon systems were delivered by Raytheon Company to the US Marine Corps under a $1.4 billion contract (2012-2019).  Part of them were later shipped to Syria.

While the US State Department has listed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” and announced a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture, the Jolani terrorist group has been well equipped with US-made missiles in Syria. A number of confidential leaks over the last years have already exposed the leading role of the US in arming militants in Syria.

 

Propaganda footage published by Ibba news agency, linked to the terrorist organisation HTS, shows HTS militants being trained to operate American BGM-71 TOW weapon systems, Kornet and Konkurs anti-tank systems in the Syrian province of Idlib (Telegram @new_militarycolumnist)

Non-standard weapons

Documents obtained from the US Federal contracts registry reveal that the US Army Contracting Command (ACC) Picatinny Arsenal has contracted eight American companies to procure non-US standard weapons from 2020 to 2025. According to the Pentagon solicitation W15QKN-19-R-0049 “Non-standard Weapons, Parts and Accessories”, the deliveries will include “theaters of conflict”.

Pentagon contractors

The US companies, tasked with the non-US standard weapons supplies, are: TLG Worldwide, LLC, Multinational Defense Services LLC, Greystone CS3 LLC, Global Ordnance LLC, UDC USA, Inc., Culmen International, LLC, Blane International Group, Inc., Sierra Four Industries Corp. The potential value of the eight contracts is $350 million for 5 year-period – from 2020 to 2025.

According to the US Federal Procurement Data System, the eight companies have already received orders with an estimated value of $25 million each or $200 million combined under the 5 year-long Pentagon program for non-US standard weapons supplies. These are foreign weapons which are not compatible with the US military standard, hence cannot be used by the US army and will be delivered as military aid to third parties.

Contract 1: Sierra Four Industries – W15QKN20D0013

Models and country of origin of the weapons

According to the weapon descriptions, these non-US standard weapons must originate from Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. The Pentagon solicitation W15QKN19R0049 specifies that “shipping instructions for consignee (ship-to) will be furnished prior to the scheduled delivery date for items required under this requisition”.

The US contractors must procure the following items from these particular factories in Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania:

  • New Production Arsenal, Bulgaria model AR-M1 Rifle
  • New Production Zastava, Serbia model M84 Machine Gun
  • New Production U.M. Cugir, Romania 12.7mm machine gun similar to DShK(M)
  • New Production Carfil, Romania AG7S
  • New Production Arsenal, Bulgaria model ATGL-H 
Weapon descriptions of items manufactured in Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania (Source: W15QKN19R0049 Solicitation, US Army Contracting Command (ACC) Picatinny Arsenal)

The contractors working under the program are not permitted to publish or otherwise publicly release specifics of contract information such as quantities of items or destinations. The contractors are also not permitted to publish or otherwise publicly release identifiable images or identities of Government personnel involved in the program without specific authorization. This includes marketing material as well as posting to social media.

End User Certificates

The Pentagon solicitation describes the following “delivery scenarios”:

15,000 pcs. each 7.62x39mm AK/AKM style rifles are to be delivered to Podhum, Croatia. The US Government intends to provide a CAT 1 End User Certificate (EUC) signed by the USG for this requirement. Acceptable condition for this requirement is surplus condition or better. These items are required urgently.

Category 1 End User Certificate (EUC) is issued by the US Government to third parties different from governments for “defense purposes”. This practically means that the US can supply weapons to militants not states under the pretext “for defense”.

60 pcs. each 7.62x54R MG-1M machine guns from Arsenal, Bulgaria are to be delivered to Anniston Army Depot, AL, USA. The US Government intends to use these items for defense purposes including transfer by means of grant aid, International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs, Foreign Military Sales (FMS), and other security assistance and armaments cooperation authorities, to the Government of Burkina Faso. Proposals should include a discussion of the appropriate End User Certificate and signatory to use in order to effect the export of these goods from Bulgaria to the USA given the US Government intended use for defense purposes. Acceptable condition for this requirement is items must be new production, produced after contract award.

Interestingly, although the weapons are intended for “defense purposes” for the Government of Burkina Faso, the weapons are to be delivered to Anniston Army Depot, AL, USA.

16 pcs. each Romanian made, new production, 12.7x108mm machine guns similar to DShK(M) with accessories to be delivered to Aden Adde/Mogadishu International Airport (MGQ), Somalia with a final destination of the UN Support Office for AMISOM UNSOS. The US Government intends to provide a Category 3 End User Certificate signed by the Government of Somalia for this requirement. Acceptable condition for this requirement is items must be new production, produced after contract award.

350 pcs. each RPG-7 launchers are to be delivered to Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. The USG intends to provide a Category 3 End User Certificate signed by the Government of Afghanistan for this requirement. Acceptable condition for this requirement is items must be new production, produced after contract award.

100 pcs. each SPG-9 launchers are to be delivered to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The US Government intends to provide a Category 3 End User Certificate signed by the Government of Iraq for this requirement. Acceptable condition for this requirement is New Old Stock condition or better. These items are required urgently.

Source: W15QKN19R0049, US Army Contracting Command (ACC) Picatinny Arsenal

Category 3 End User Certificate is issued by the US Government “to provide the item to allies engaged together with the United States in armed conflict with a common enemy”. Interestingly, although the weapons are to be exported with an End User Certificate signed by the Government of Iraq their destination is not Iraq but the US military Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

Task Force Smoking Gun
Why is the Pentagon planning to ship 15,000 pcs. of AK47 style rifles (from Bulgaria and Serbia) to a depot in Podhum, Croatia although Croatia is not the end user of these rifles?The Pentagon has deployed a secret US Special Operations Command unit code named Task Force Smoking Gun in Croatia since 2017 in support of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Train and Equip program in Syria. According to leaked e-mails, published by Arms Watch in 2019, Task Force Smoking Gun has been operating an arms depot in the Croatian city of Podhum near Rijeka Airport from where Pentagon-commissioned American carriers (Atlas Air and Kalitta Air) have transported the military cargo to the US air base Al Udeid in Qatar.According to the 2019 leaked documents, published by Arms Watch, the weapons which Task Force Smoking Gun diverted to Syria, originated from Serbia. The buyers were four American companies which had been contracted by the US Government to supply non US standard weapons (weapons not in use by the US Army) – Sierra Four Industries, Orbital ATK, Global Ordnance, and UDC.Leaked passports revealed which US Government officials and private contractors had ordered, inspected and accepted the weapons. The same names have been listed by the Pentagon as recipients of a US Central Command award in recognition of their support to the Syrian Train and Equip program – the US program for arming militants in Syria.The new 2020 Pentagon contracts for Bulgarian and Serbian rifles, destined for Podhum, Croatia, have been awarded to the same US companies: Sierra Four Industries, Global Ordnance, and UDC, which have already been exposed for illegal arms supplies to Syria.

Al Qaeda in Syria

The main active military group in Syria currently is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib. The terrorist group was previously known as Al Nusra Front – the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria but renamed itself to HTS in order to receive freely military aid from Western countries. This raises questions as to whether Al Qaeda will be the consignee of these weapons in Syria.

*Featured Image: US Task Force Smoking Gun has transported hundreds of tons of weapons from Europe to Syria via Qatar on Pentagon-commissioned Kalitta Air flights from Rijeka Airport in Croatia.


Dilyana Gaytandzhieva is a Bulgarian investigative journalist, Middle East correspondent, and founder of Arms Watch.  Her current work is focused on documenting war crimes and illicit arms exports to war zones around the world.

 

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