By on October 17, 2016

Toyota Hilux (Image: Toyota UK)

The long-awaited battle to retake the northern Iraq city of Mosul — an ISIS stronghold for the past two years — 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 120 Hilux pickups in a well-planned turkey shoot.

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.

“This is a question we’ve been asking our neighbors,” Faily said. “How could these brand new trucks… these four wheel drives, hundreds of them — where are they coming from?”

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.”

“ISIS has used these vehicles in order to engage in military-type activities, terror activities, and the like,” Wallace said. “But in nearly every ISIS video, they show a fleet — a convoy of Toyota vehicles and that’s very concerning to us.”

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 spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan claims “middlemen” from outside Iraq are organizing the shipments of vehicles into the country.

[Image: Toyota UK]

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62 Comments on “As Battle for Mosul Begins, Ambassador Want to Know How ISIS Got So Many Toyotas...”


  • avatar
    shedkept

    Old news.

    They know a good truck. They also like Land Cruisers and Suburbans.

  • avatar
    gasser

    How hard can it be to run the VINs for captured and destroyed vehicles and see where they originally were sold?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      They probably *do* know – by running the VINs as you mention – but it’s best to let the enemy not know what you know.

      Finding the sources of the Hilux will also lead you to one source of ISIS’ money. You only strike at that when it can be debilitating.

      In WWII, the Allies faced the dilemma of having broken the Germans’ Enigma code, yet not tipping their hand by acting upon every piece of intelligence the code produced. So the Allied response had to be measured and selective – an ethical conundrum that certainly cost Allied lives, yet saved many also.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        My guess is that ISIS sells oil to customers in Turkey and suppliers in Turkey sell Hiluxes to ISIS. We know, but but can’t do much about it because Turkey is a member of NATO and officially an ally.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @George B
          They were being stolen from the streets of Australia and being shipped to Syria,as ” Agricultural Equipment” Many sources for the New Hilux, they are sold everywhere

        • 0 avatar
          Conslaw

          If they know who is selling them they could plant transponding GPS devices, more sophisticated versions of what the used car dealers use. They could even be bugged to record audio & video and retransmit it using a low-probability of intercept.

      • 0 avatar
        John

        So your plan is for the USA to strike Saudi Arabia “when it will be debilitating”?

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          John – don’t know where that came from.
          What’s Plan B? Replace the Kingdom of Saud with what? Another Syria or Libya? As in WWII, there are no good answers to your question, just greater or lesser awful ones.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Half are probably stolen outright. The other half are small purchases using straw buyers at numerous dealerships. Nothing to raise suspicions. Plus, there are quite a few ways for these dealerships to cover the paper trail if they really want to.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      It won’t help much.

      We’ve seen cases were a plumber in Texas, who traded in his Toyota for a Ford F-250 to a Ford dealership, found his truck in Syria used by Islamic militants.

      http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/14/us/terror-truck-lawsuit/

      Cars and trucks are easily purchased new and used by mostly anyone, anywhere, in the world. Its not like there is a single evil car dealer somewhere funneling trucks to ISIS; there is no need for such complexities.

      The reason why ISIS uses Toyotas is likely more logistical. Its produced around the world and has a ample supply of parts for maintenance.

      The reality is that there really isn’t that many cheap global pick up truck platforms to choose from for anyone in the Middle East and Asia. Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara/NP300 and Ford Ranger is really the only available alternatives (outside of Chinese Great Wall trucks). The Amarock and Silverado are smaller players without large production capacity in Asia (Amarock will start production in Algeria in 2017). It means that the Toyota Hilux is pretty much the default option.

      • 0 avatar

        It was a horse, not a mule.

        With apologies to Fiddler on the Roof, the plumber traded in a Ford F-250, not a Toyota, as you can see in the photo of the truck in TTAC’s post on the lawsuit.

        https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/12/texas-plumber-sues-dealer-traded-truck-advertising-ends-syrian-jihadis/

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @L’avventura
        Toyota Hilux is vey very good Off Road and on sand. Very much present in the ME. I noticed they use that Korean mini truck a lot to carry around the twin 30’s or heavier European / Japanese trucks for the very heavy AA Guns

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I have just one question. If the Hilux does such a good job as a military vehicle. And it has demonstrated its ability in numerous conflicts throughout Africa and the Middle East.

    Then why do western militaries spend tens if not hundreds of millions developing vehicles to do relatively the same job?

    • 0 avatar
      Corollaman

      Because the military would not buy anything not 100% ‘Murican

      • 0 avatar
        WRohrl

        The US Army already is buying Toyotas for military use. And the USMC has Mercedes G-Classes in their inventory. Nothing American about either of them.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Lol @corolla- another great off the cuff, and totally unfounded, remark by you.

        The Toyota’s are modified by ISIS, and even then are not superior to military spec hardware. Would you like to hit an IED in a Toyota pick up or an armored military-spec vehicle designed to keep you alive in just this situation?

        ISIS would make do with VW Caddys if that’s all they could get their hands on. Its just a common all-purpose 4wd vehicle that can haul payload.

        Our F-150 4wd is just as “military-ready” from the factory as a new HiLux. In a fight to defend this country from invaders or other major in-country threat, you bet your sweet AsperCream you would see them and GM, Ram etc trucks used exactly as ISIS uses the HiLux. That does not mean they are ready for war more so than purpose-built military trucks, but they’re capable of filling the same role as HiLux does for ISIS if required.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          A VW Caddy is a great delivery vehicle, but like a lot US Pickups it is very much hindered by it’s Off Road Performance. You say rhy not a Raptor?
          Can you imagine a Raptor carrying anything more than 500lbs of payload.?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The Hilux isn’t bullet-proof (literally), and its occupants apparently don’t care.

      The US would rather spend billions on safer vehicles, than answer to Congress about why our ‘advisors’ are being killed in unarmored pickup trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Congress isn’t asking the right questions now are they? Such as why does the Pentagon have advisers there in the first place?

        Korea

        Vietnam

        Gulf War

        Iraq

        Afghanistan

        One out of five with a “W” isn’t enough to suggest, maybe this isn’t working. Stupid morons fighting the Soviets in another proxy war which benefits NO ONE in this country.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Since you mention it, I’ve evolved into somewhat of an isolationist. I now believe that US troops should only be stationed overseas upon invitation, and with payment by the host country.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @SCE to AUX – “and with payment by the host country.”
            You don’t think that USA profits directly or indirectly by having military bases all over the world?
            They aren’t there to protect the locals, they are there to protect interests in that locale.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        SCE to AUX – It would be safe to say that most “advisers” being killed are involved in clandestine or covert combat operations. If “we aren’t officially there”, you get what the locals get. Overt military action under a declaration of war means you get to drive around in something like a MRAP vehicle.

        @28-Cars-later –
        You raise a valid point. Some say the USA does this altruistically as “the global policeman” but reality is much different. Many of those conflicts indirectly have to do with the “red menace” which is actually the fear of socialism and/or communism. Iraq version Dubya was about oil and profits for US interests.

        The “War on Terror” is more oblique. USA with Iraq version Dubya arguably was the rape that spawned ISIS. One can go further back to Iran when the USA and England put the Shah in place. That occurred due to the fact that the previous government was going to socialize its oil. The Shah was no better or worse than Hussein. He was supported indirectly by the USA because he was fighting post-Shah fundamentalist Iran.
        Only a quarter of Muslims are MiddleEastern. Wahabism is the Sunni sect of ISIS and ironically the primary religious sect of Saudi Arabia. Most of the 9-11 terrorists were Saudi and so was Bin Laden. Many Sunni’s support ISIS more because they are killing off Shia Muslims.
        I do agree that the USA needs to get its own house in order. The Republican party and Trump shows the chasm that exists on the right and Hillary and the Dems shows how things are out of wack on the left.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      A Hilux has zero capacity to protect occupants. It’s good because it’s cheap, you throw some plating on it and cut a hole for a weld support for a .50 Cal and you’re off to the races. But even an M-16 can disable it. The vehicles we’re now trying to build are about deflecting IEDs and stopping liquidified copper injection bombs. No Hilux can stop even a decades old claymore let alone something more advanced like those monstrosities.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Tried armoring a Hilux to withstand an IED?

      Western armies don’t field disposable Technicals with disposable troops.

      That’s why they spend money on armored HMMWVs and MRAPs and the line.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Interesting to see if current new model. Hiluxes turn up, Most I have seen are the previous model
    @Steph Willems :Rocket Launcher photo is a L70

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ” Because the military would not buy anything not 100% ‘Murican”

    Wrong .

    A huge amount of support items are Chinese junk re packaged by crafty American bidders and sold to the U.S. Military .

    Crap that doesn’t work, I got burned buying some brandy new in the box surplus tools .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    And yet I can’t get one here … smh.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Start waving a black flag and USAF will probably air drop you one.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      I’ve seen them in person, vent-L-8, and they’re just a homelier version of the Tacoma. You ain’t missing much.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Yeah I occasionally stumble across one in the Walmart parking lot due to our proximity to Mexico, where you can buy one. My brain generally goes “hmmmm there’s something not quite right about that Tundra/Tacoma… wait it’s a Hilux.”

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @Roberto Esponja
        Do not what you saw, but you can get them to “platinum level” Current Tacoma is based a
        much older Hilux platform

        http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/29B6282171B3F95ECA257E81001B4DA3#!prettyPhoto%5Bgallery%5D/0/

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    I suspect the reality is something more convoluted involving their numerous dealership middle-men and subsidiary groups. I imagine a fair bit are outright stolen, another segment sold to straw buyers, and a third bought through a supportive deal involving third parties and governments. It’s too easy to pawn it off on Toyota itself and what’s a few hundred or even thousand Hiluxes sold if you possibly could face a world court? (Japan is subject to it and the US would definitely seek indictment if not there, locally).

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      The Toyota Hilux is sold in 180 countries around the world and is the best selling pickup in the world outside of USA and Canada. That would explain the primary reason why it happens to be the truck of choice by militants around the world.

      It is the most common therefore the easiest to get and the easiest to support.

      I’d be much more concerned if all of a sudden ISIS was using 5,000 new Ram Cummins 4×4’s and Marchionne started wearing a keffiyeh.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The Toyota thing may also be partly a matter of selection bias. We notice them because we are expecting to see them.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve watched several ISIS propaganda videos and they had more than just Toyotas. In one particular video, they were bragging about what they had taken from the retreating Iraqi army, including some full-size US domestic pickups. In another video, they had converted a Humvee into a rolling suicide bomb.

      The Hilux is the world’s most popular truck outside of North America, so it’s not surprising that most of ISIS’ pickups are Toyotas. To the extent that they are buying them new in bulk, I am going to guess that they are coming from Turkey and that the Turkish government is happy to see them used against the Kurds.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        My guess if anybody is selling them outright it’s probably Iran using straw buyers but again, I doubt it’s a government supported action. It may be a blind eye towards it or just outright ineptitude, Hiluxes aren’t a high-priority item like Russian small arms and shoulder/truck mounted weapons.

        This is more bluster than anything strategically important though it may expose a fairly simple pipeline we’ve been ignoring because it’s so mundane.

        ISIS is a political football of the US & Russian nature, if Russia was on an united front with us this would be over already but just like in the cold war we’re stuck playing proxy war with innocent lives while the Russians are desperately trying to expand their influence (and we’re not wholly innocent but I would call us neutral good to Russia’s Lawful Evil to go D&D on folks).

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          ISIS is Sunni, the Iranians are Shiite. Iran is fighting ISIS, not helping them.

          The Turks and ISIS have a common opponent in the Kurds, which would explain why the Turks would want to turn a blind eye to whatever help crosses its border into Syria.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Pch thanks for pointing that out, Xeranar totally lost me there.

            As far as the US being “neutral good” I’d argue that’s nonsense. Our “moderate rebels” have again and again been linked to some of the worst atrocities of that brutal war. There are even direct links from the anti-Assad photographer who took the photo of the shell-shocked Syrian boy and a “moderate” rebel group that decapitated a 12 year old pro-regime boy that was captured.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            At this point, “moderate Syrian militia” is an oxymoron.

            The Russians are willing to support Assad, while the US wants to defeat ISIS without propping up Assad. The US is in a tough spot because it maintains goals that are understandable (Assad is a bad guy) yet contradictory (it isn’t possible to fight ISIS without indirectly helping Assad.)

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Damn it, you’re right….This is why I don’t do IR. :P

            The Turks hate ISIS as much as anybody because they don’t want the flood of refugees and the longer this drags on the more and more likely we are to arm the Kurds. This is a no-win situation for the Turks if anything.

            I stand by no government is likely rewarding them with trucks beyond possibly Russia who could be playing all sides of the field at this point…Who knows with Putin.

            As for our rebel help: This is the reality when you end up in Civil Wars, people aren’t nice and don’t have high-regards for others. You don’t want to get involved directly with boots on the ground then you got to use what forces you have there. Some of the rebels are sectarians, some are islamists, it’s not a matter of picking and choosing since the cleavage is Assad vs. just about everybody else.

            At this point, backing out and leaving Assad in power isn’t any more effective than staying in it. There is no ‘good guy’ in our mythical sense, they’re are only people who are fighting and people caught in the crossfire.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “no government is likely rewarding them with trucks beyond possibly Russia who could be playing all sides of the field at this point”

            An insane theory. Russia has put all their support/equipment behind Assad forces (that includes Hezbollah and other Shiite actors), and they make no bones about it.

            “Some of the rebels are sectarians, some are islamists,”

            Also false. The US MSM clings to crumbs about somewhere there still being some secular anti-Assad forces but they really have to look far and wide to find them. The “moderates” they refer to these days are unabashed Islamists. Now, they might not be the re-branded Al-Nusra (aka rebranded Al Queda), but their end goal is an Islamic form of government in Syria. To think that these people will just let a western style democracy flourish after Assad falls is the highest form of lunacy. Just take a look at Libya and Egypt. One is Somalia 2.0 with increasing ISIS presence, the other had the Muslim Brotherhood come to power after our assistance with the Arab Spring there. In Egypt’s case there thankfully was a coup that put another strongman in charge, and the Muslim Brotherhood has been labeled a terrorist organization/sponsor.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Russia is fighting ISIS because the Russians are opposed to anything that might inspire Islamic fundamentalism in their sphere of influence. (It would also like to have a warm water port in Syria.)

            The Turks are happy to look the other way when Kurds are being killed because they don’t want an independent Kurdistan to inspire Kurds within Turkey to break away.

            The Americans want ISIS out of Iraq and Syria, and the Kurds are certainly happy to be rid of ISIS, too. But the Americans don’t want Kurdish independence because that will cause Iraq to collapse, creating a power vacuum that benefits Iran. It’s difficult to help the Kurds without contributing to their desire for autonomy.

            The American position is difficult because the parties that are most eager to fight ISIS — Iran, Syria, the Kurds — are not parties that the US is eager to help. Hence, the effort to rebuild the Iraqi military and to get them to do the bulk of the fighting: it limits US bloodshed while (hopefully) deterring Iran and (hopefully) keeping Iraq from falling apart.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            I have to agree with Pch101. Iran isn’t going to help ISIS partially due to the religious aspect and partially because they don’t want their country destabilized and end up like Syria or Iraq for that matter.
            The USA made a mess of Iraq in Gulf War version Bubya. That helped spawn ISIS and much of the current instability in the region.

            It is a tightrope game being played out by the USA and others. Somalia was mentioned and that is a prime example of the USA using the wrong players to fight Al Qaeda. They used warlords as their proxy which causes the Muslim side to coalesce into a group fighting the warlords. Al Qaeda was just a very small part of the Muslim group but USA fears caused them to back an Ethiopian invasion and occupation. Ethiopia is primarily Christian and that obviously made the conflict a holy war which benefited Al Queda.
            The doctrine of “any enemy of my enemy is a friend” will once again bite the players feeding the various factions.

  • avatar
    ronald

    Kinda rich for the Iraqi ambassador to be asking about the Toyotas. Didn’t ISIS get a lot of its armaments from Iraqi forces who dropped them as they ran?

  • avatar

    Allah-ve what you do for me, Toyota!

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Ford needs some customers for the F150s filling dealer lots across the country. Heck, they are shutting down a F150 factory. Ford should open a new dealership in Iraq. Hopefully, ISIS would be willing to trade down from a Toyota to a Ford if Ford puts enough cash on the hood. Problem solved.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Manufacturers can’t even keep US-sold luxury cars from ending-up in China, and yet the naive here believe that, somehow, every Toyota customer on every continent (other than Antarctica) can be fully vetted? Dream on.

    There’s nothing magical about the Hilux, other than it’s a quality truck that’s available worldwide (except in the US and Canada). They would use Isuzu or Mitsubishi if that’s what was available.

    Some will remember that the Libyan revolution “featured” Chinese pickups, because that’s what they had in Libya at the time. I’m sure they eventually ran into the same problem that owners of Chinese dirt bikes encounter here: shoddy construction and no parts.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Same place they got all of those HMMWV’s from at the start of the war I am guessing…The US Taxpayer via the Iraqi Army running away from them at the onset of the conflict. Surely this is the case for a chunk of them anyway.

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