Occasionally it is heard from different sources that united states of America is accidentally helping ISIS through various approaches such as sending the parcels of bombs or other war weapons by airplanes and …? such as:

The USA government claims they have sent them wrongly. Is there any data that shows that this shipments to ISIS are likely to be errors? (I.e. they make up a small percentage of all supply shipments)

Or does USA help ISIS in total? (in different ways)

7 Answers 7


The short answer is: the U.S. has probably not helped ISIS inadvertently, but arms have probably fallen into ISIS hands from the U.S.

In essence, you are proposing two different mechanisms for the delivery of material. The first is the acquisition of arms from the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and the second is accidental delivery of weaponry intended for anti-ISIS or anti-Ba'ath fighters in Syria.

The first mechanism is highly improbable. First, consulates are not usually armed, and the one in Benghazi was specifically understaffed and under-protected, meaning that very little was available to be shipped from Libya to Syria or Iraq. Furthermore, the distance between the two areas is daunting, being at least 2000km by land, or 1500km by sea just to reach Syria.

The second mechanism is actually quite likely. The U.S. has provided assistance to at least three sets of groups in the area: the Iraqi government, Kurdish militias and anti-regime militias in Syria. Due to the occupation of Iraq (2003-11) the U.S. has very good personalistic ties in Iraq and with Kurds, and consequently is unlikely to be misdelivering arms to those groups. On the other hand, the Syrian situation is particularly murky. It is likely that at some point arms were delivered to a Syrian group that made their way to ISIS.

The ultimate question, however, is whether or not that helped ISIS. The answer is that it probably did not help materially primarily because ISIS' problem is not a shortage of small arms, which is what the U.S. is sending. Since the fall of Mosul ISIS has had in its possession major weapons, including armored vehicles and helicopters, and the addition of machine guns or additional assault rifles is not likely to materially increase their capability relative to other groups.


I'm not familiar with the US helping IS in the manner you're suggesting, but it is common for opponents of intervention in the Middle East to argue that the US's continued intervention helps IS and other organizations recruit. The argument is basically that terrorism is the natural response an occupier that can't be fought outright due to asymmetry; so, by this logic, the US's continued intervention in the Middle East inadvertently helps IS by motivating people to join them against the West.

And more generally, there are cases where the US has supported one side of a conflict and the arms given in support have ended being used against the US or its allies. This is called blowback. There are claims that some members of IS are former Syrian rebels that were trained/armed by the US, but I can't find a credible link that supports the claim. (In other words, take it with a grain of salt.)

  • 2
    I would like to encourage not using phrases such as our to refer to the USA or western society in general, since not all users on SE belong to these. Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 15:57
  • @Mikel, you're absolutely right. I try to avoid it, but it's a pretty well ingrained habit.
    – Tyler
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 16:06
  • Not a problem at all, I just wanted to make you notice it. Thanks for the change, from an European citizen :) Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 16:10

Yes, the leading cause of terrorism is military occupation.


When the US occupies Yemen, Afghanistan, and has bases in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, and Kuwait, then that helps IS to recruit more terrorists.

  • 2
    The person who is making that argument in that interview, Bob Pape, only contends that the leading cause of Suicide Terrorism is occupation. There are plenty of instances of terrorism that do not stem from occupation, such as environmental terrorism (the most common form of terrorism in the U.S., by the way), anarchists and so on. For more information on Prof. Pape's arguments, see his website. You will notice that it is all about suicide terrorism, and not about terrorism in general. Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 16:59

Also, I add, US and west aided the Syrian rebels against Asad regime. Aid was in many ways, mostly weapons. And we know, IS was one of the parties of the rebellion. B

Other than that, US disbanded the Iraqi Army during occupation. Not only was Iraq drained of veterans and trained manpower, but some also say, these veterans joined the ranks of IS.


Not only did the United States help ISIS, they supported them. Who do you think was fighting Assad when they said he must go? Once they made that statement they in-directly supported ISIS fighters.

  • Dear mate, why do u think Assad should go, whereas majority of Syria people selected him as the elections. Do some groups says he should go since he is not like what they are interested in?! __ I think: e.g. if here wasn’t any elections, then those group would say “uh, people are not free to choose their interest person freely. / But currently, unfortunately, those opponents attack them, since they are not based on their policy! ___ ultimately I reckon the current government of Syria is based on democracy, since majority of people chose him / Besides, I thank you for being frank / Good luck@ Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 7:03
  • @السید____علی Your comment makes absolutely no sense. Ever heard of falsified elections? That's the way the majority of dictatorships governments around the world do to "justify" their power. Republics with falsified elections is unfortunately still the most common type of government in the world as for 2015.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 9:05
  • Dear mate, it is not easy to accuse other governments for "falsified elections" if their directions are not based on some specific powers of the world. / Actually, they call and accuse whoever is not according their policy as dictator! (as themselves...) / e.g. although the most population of Bahrain is Shia, but they do not let them to choice the president! Coz in that case, the president is not based on their policy. How would you justify it? I reckon we should refer to our conscience, not to what we are interest in. Thanx for paying attention to my reply. Good luck mate. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 10:01
  • I didn't say I agreed with it. What are you talking about? It's a fact that's what happen. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 14:43
  • @السید____علی Huh? My point is, because a country has election doesn't mean it's democratic. The Economist's democracy index is one relatively reliable source on the matter.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 15:46

Yes, I include the entire developed in this not just the USA.

  • ISIS gets most of its funding from the direct or indirect sale of oil.
  • Every time we full up our car help increase the demand for oil.
  • We are not willing to stop trading with counties we know allows their people to support the like of ISIS, due to wanting access to their oil.
  • It does not matter where we get OUR oil from, as by buying it, we stop it being sold to someone else, and therefore increase the demand for the oil the ISIS and their supporters sell.

(Throughout history, it seems that the “locals” have never done well where there has been a natural resource in a country that could be exploited for great profit without the requirement to create great employment in the process. The people in power WILL get rich, much better if they do so my creating employment for the rest...)


Yes, there have certainly been incidences of the kind of accidental help you've been talking about. The link below for example is to a story about how a US weapons drop via parachute was accidentally intercepted on the ground by ISIS, who took the weapons:


Further, prior to those sorts of accidents when ISIS was first expanding into Iraq, ISIS fighters came across large amounts of weaponry that the US military left behind e.g. equipment for Iraqi Army soldiers that were left at the bases the Iraqis abandoned, during ISIS' surge into the North.

(Another report, on the above topic) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5Hn1GXBrG4


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