Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Sputnik on Saturday, hours after a Russian Su-25 attack aircraft was downed by militants in Syria, that the United States did not equip partner forces in Syria with surface-to-air weapons.
“Alongside by, with, and through our partners in Syria, the United States remains focused on the fight against ISIS [Daesh]. The US has not equipped any partner forces in Syria with surface-to-air weapons and has no intention to do so in the future. Our operations are geographically focused on ongoing combat operations against ISIS [Daesh] in eastern Syria. We will assess the validity of these claims to ensure the safety of our coalition partners. I refer you to the Russian government for information regarding this incident,” Pahon said.
Meanwhile, terrorrist group Tahrir al-Sham released a post on social media quoting a commander in charge of its air raids as saying one of its militants had hit Russian SU-25 during an “air raid” over the city of Saraqeb in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Earlier on in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry revealed that Russia’s Su-25 was downed in Syria’s Idlib province from a man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD). According to the ministry, the pilot ejected from the aircraft but was killed by militants on the ground.
In January, the Al-Masdar News media outlet reported, citing own sources that the US had provided the MANPADS to the Kurds earlier in the month under the agreement between Washington and the YPG. According to the news outlet, the MANPADS have been delivered to the Kurds in the northwestern part of Syria near the town of Afrin.
Meanwhile, an international arms monitor UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) has earlier reported that the US weapons that were covertly provided to Syrian rebel groups were allegedly in the hands of Daesh within two months of their delivery. CAR studied over 40,000 weapons recovered from Daesh since 2014 and found that a majority of them were US arms given or sold to Syrian rebel groups.
In one case, an arsenal including anti-tank weapons switched hands from the US to Syrian rebels to Daesh in only a two month period.
In at least one instance, a US-backed militia is known to have had its weapons seized by Islamic militants. Division 30, Syrian rebels armed and trained by the CIA, were ambushed by the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front in August 2015, the militants seizing their armaments and effectively destroying the group.
Some of the US-trained militants are known to have defected to Daesh or al-Nusra, often bringing their weapons with them.
However, the study was not able to conclude whether or not the rebels willingly gave the weapons to the Islamic militant group or if Daesh stole or captured them.