Old military campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and other troubled Middle Eastern countries have come back to haunt the U.S., Russia and Europe as the ordnance left behind has fallen into the hands of a powerful enemy: The terrorist group known as Islamic State.
All types of military vehicles – from Soviet-era tanks and modern U.S. Humvees to Black Hawk helicopters, AK-47s and fighter jets – have been identified as being captured by the jihadist group ISIS in their campaigns across swathes of Syria and Iraq.
The weapons can date back anything from a few years or decades and originate from foreign campaigns in the Middle East, according to analysts. From Russia's ill-fated war in Afghanistan in the 1980s to the similarly troubled times for U.S. forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, large amounts of weapons were left behind or handed over to U.S.-trained forces.
Problematically, however, when those Iraqi forces or Syrian rebels have been defeated by ISIS in recent battles for control over territory in Iraq or Syria, the group has commandeered their weapons too, strengthening their arsenal further and leaving the West little option but to fight an enemy using its own weapons against it.
"I'm afraid the whole area is awash with weapons," U.K. defense analyst and government advisor, Paul Beaver, told CNBC Thursday. "From Humvees to Kalashnikovs and Dragunovs (Russian-made sniper rifles) and military vehicles…they've captured a huge amount."
The Pentagon is well aware that U.S. weapons have got into enemy hands. Navy Commander Elissa Smith, a press officer for the Middle East at the Pentagon's Office of the Secretary of Defense, told CNBC in an emailed statement Friday: "We are aware that ISIL has acquired some U.S. weapons that had been in the possession of either the Syrian regime or the Iraqi Security Forces."