BEIRUT (AP) — As the U.S.-led coalition ratchets up operations in Syria, there are concerns that it will result in a rerun of what happened in Iraq, where $1 billion in weapons supplied to local fighters is unaccounted for.
Weapons, training and airstrikes by the coalition have aided ground forces in both Iraq and Syria, allowing Iraq’s military, Iraqi Kurdish fighters and Syrian Kurdish fighters to retake some 55,000 square kilometers (21,235 square miles) of territory from the Islamic State extremists in the nearly three-year fight.
However, many in both countries are concerned about how the forces bolstered by the coalition will leverage their influence and arms once the militants are vanquished. Numerous Iraqi groups that benefited from the training and arms have been accused of human rights violations.
The Trump administration’s decision to provide Syria’s Kurds with more advanced weapons has raised concerns among the various players in Syria’s complicated battlefield. U.S. officials have said new weapons to be supplied would include heavy machine guns, ammunition, mortars and possibly TOW anti-tank missiles.
Coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian said the weapons will not be reclaimed after the specific missions are completed but the U.S. will “carefully monitor” where and how they are used.
“Every single one” of the weapons will be accounted for and the U.S. will “assure they are pointed at” IS, he said.
But opposition fighters battling Syrian forces in the country’s six-year civil war — some of them backed by Turkey — say there is simply no guarantee the weapons won’t be directed against them or others.
U.S.-backed Kurdish groups have often clashed with Turkey-backed groups in northern Syria, where many factions are jostling to hold various zones of influence.
The coalition already has demonstrated an inability to track weapons in Iraq, a much less complex and unstable battlefield than Syria.
Amnesty International released a report this month detailing a…