A Loose Manpads Update: Syria and the Challenge

By The SLD Team

As readers of Second Line of Defense are well aware, we have been focusing on what we think is a significant threat, namely loose manpads from Libya.




We are excerpting here from a recent Wall Street Journal piece which provides further insights into the evolving challenge.

Syrian Rebels Get Missiles

By Nour Malas

Some Syrian rebel factions have obtained advanced portable antiaircraft weapons, according to rebels and regional officials, a development that could alter the Syrian war’s trajectory and fan U.S. concerns that such weapons could end up in the hands of anti-Western Islamist militias.

Video footage uploaded to the Internet earlier this week appears to show rebels in Aleppo using weapons that military experts and rebels say are heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles, the first documented instance in the conflict. Versions of the weapons—also known as man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads—have been smuggled into the country over the past two months through Turkey and to a lesser extent Lebanon, according to Syrian rebels and those who supply them arms through an “operations room” coordinated by regional governments.

“Northern Syria is awash with advanced antitank and antiaircraft weapons. The situation has changed very quickly,” a Syrian involved in coordinating weapons procurement with regional states said. The Manpad transfers weren’t sanctioned by the regional states that have armed and financed Syria’s rebels since early this year, he added.

On Wednesday, fighters said they downed a military helicopter in the town of Maarat al-Nouman, in the northern Idlib province, one of at least four helicopters and jets they say they have brought down across Syria this week. It couldn’t be determined how the craft were brought down. But the reported incidents, three of which are documented on videos but couldn’t be independently verified, appear to mark an increased pace over the roughly weekly downings reported in Syria since the summer.

U.S. officials oppose the introduction of such weapons in Syria, citing long-standing fears that they could wind up in the hands of anti-Western militias that could eventually use them against the U.S. and its allies, or sell them to terrorists. “Obviously, we are concerned about the proliferation of Manpads,” said a U.S. official…..

U.S. officials say they are most worried about Russian-designed Manpads provided to Libya making their way to Syria. The U.S. intensified efforts to track and collect man-portable missiles after the 2011 fall of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

To keep control of the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed a joint operations room early this year in a covert project U.S. officials watched from afar.

The U.S. has limited its support of the rebels to communications equipment, logistics and intelligence. But U.S. officials have coordinated with the trio of countries sending arms and munitions to the rebels. The Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border as the weapons began to flow to the rebels in two to three shipments every week.






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