The long-awaited battle to retake the northern Iraq city of MosulÂ â€” an ISIS stronghold for the past two yearsÂ â€” began this morning, with Allied forces supporting the Iraqi Army troops and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in their quest against the Islamic State.
One player has a heavy presence on both sides of the battle, and it isn’t a person or organization. It’s the Toyota Hilux, the go-to vehicle for terrorists and allies in the war-torn region. So numerous is the do-anything pickup, that the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. questions how so many Toyotas could find their way into ISIS hands.
View any image taken from the region, and you’ll almost certainly spot a tan or beige Toyota Hilux blending nicely into the arid landscape. Similar to the Tacoma, the Hilux is the conflict’s Jack-of-all-trades. Scout vehicle, suicide bomb carrier, mobile heavy machine gun platform or rocket battery carrier, the Hilux does it all on both sides.
In one summer airstrike, the U.S. Air Force obliterated a convoy of 120Â Hilux pickups in a well-planned turkey shoot.
“Running around like rats surprising us with suicide attacks and snipers”: On the frontline of the battle for Mosulhttps://t.co/X2eGyUQoPX
â€” The Telegraph (@Telegraph) October 17, 2016
Recently, Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily told ABC News he was concerned by the hundreds of new Hilux pickups ISIS has acquired in recent years. Older trucks have already been repurposed to suit the group’s needs.
â€œThis is a question weâ€™ve been asking our neighbors,â€� Faily said. â€œHow could these brand new trucks… these four wheel drives, hundreds of them â€”Â where are they coming from?â€�
The ambassador’s concerns are echoed by U.S. officials and anti-terror watchdogs. Former UN ambassador Mark Wallace, now head of the non-profit Counter Extremism Project, told ABC that “the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand.”
â€œISIS has used these vehicles in order to engage in military-type activities, terror activities, and the like,â€� Wallace said. â€œBut in nearly every ISIS video, they show a fleet â€”Â a convoy of Toyota vehicles and thatâ€™s very concerning to us.â€�
A Toyota executive questioned by the news channel said the automaker has measures in place to prevent its models from being used as unauthorized military vehicles. It would terminate “immediately” any known agreement between a dealer and the terrorist group, the executive said. Still, there’s a way around every problem. What’s stopping ISIS from taking control of vehicles on dealer lots in overrun cities, and who is going to say no to ISIS if they ask for your keys?
The real problem seems to be the age-old practice of black market smuggling. Iraqi military spokesmanÂ Brigadier General Saad Maan claims “middlemen” from outside Iraq are organizing the shipments of vehicles into the country.[Image: Toyota UK]