The Toyota Hilux has become a fixture of ISIS propaganda. When ISIS took control of Raqqa in 2013, two thirds of the vehicles shown in their propaganda were white Toyota Hiluxes numerable other images and videos produced by the group show large numbers of Toyotas. The Terror Financing Unit of the US Treasury asked Toyota if they knew how ISIS were acquiring so many of their vehicles, and if they would support an inquiry to find out how, this is despite the fact that there is nothing to substantiate any culpability of Toyota’s part.
ISIS are not the only militant group to have used Toyota pickup trucks in large numbers, they are manoeuvrable, durable, and it’s possible to have a gun mounted on the back. The Hilux and the Tacoma (its American counterpart) have been used by militant groups in Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, they are also used by US special forces.
In 2014, American public radio PRI reported:
“Recently, when the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks.”
“Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army’s wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, is a fan of the truck.”
Military aid for Syrian rebels is not the only way the vehicles get into Syria, militant groups acquire vehicles legally and illegally. Vehicles like these are stolen disproportionately often. In Australia, vehicle theft has dropped by almost 300 per cent since 2001, despite this the number of Hiluxes being stolen is rising and some experts on terrorism think this, among many others, could be a possible source for militants.
Toyota responded to the US’s questions, stating that they have all the proper protocol in place to prevent militant groups from acquiring their vehicles, and said that they would support an inquiry. It’s extremely unlikely that Toyota are acting any differently to other automobile manufactures, nor is it the case that if they stopped selling Hiluxes, ISIS would be at a loss for 4x4s. The much more likely scenario is that ISIS, similarly to other militant groups, acquire their vehicles through a variety of means, and that a significant proportion of the Toyotas came to be in Syria through US funding of moderate rebels.
The Obama administration’s record in Syria has come under criticism, the US recently ended its $500 million program to train Syrian rebels which fell disastrously short of its target, training only 60 of the intended 5,400. The US’s questions to Toyota reveal either a certain negligence on the part of the Terror Financing Unit, or a bad attempt by the US to distract attention from their role in funding militant groups in Syria.