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Why Are Toyota Trucks so Common in Wars in the Middle East?

Alongside the Kalashnikov, one of the most ubiquitous brands being used in various conflicts across the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond is the iconic Toyota pickup. The prominence of the brand in modern warfare was first brought to mainstream attention in 2014 when enormous columns of armed Toyota Hilux and Land Cruisers were seen being used in Daesh propaganda videos in Iraq and Syria and Libya.

One of the main reasons for this can be traced back to when ISIS terrorists held a parade through the center of Raqqa. According to Reaper Feed, it’s estimated that over two-thirds of the vehicles were Toyota SUVs. However, the presence of Toyota pickups in modern warfare goes back a while before 2014. But why?

The vehicle in question is the vehicle of choice for irregular, non-state, or weak-state forces who don’t have access to military vehicles like tanks or who can’t afford extensive logistic chains. Additionally, they often need to quickly move through rough terrain and urban environments. The hardwearing and extremely reliable Toyota ticks all the boxes for carrying out such a task. Additionally, the bed of the truck is the perfect size for fitting heavy weaponry too.

Even on our YPT trips across the Middle East and Africa, we have been known to use a trusty Toyota or two in order to transport our clients across tough terrain. For example, on our recent trip to the world’s biggest arms fair in Jordan we used a fleet of Toyota pickups to drive through the Jordanian desert at high speed. See for yourself:

Image By TheCarColony

In the 1980s, the humble Toyota SUV found itself so prominently at the center of a 1987 armed conflict between Chad and Libya, that the war was named ”The Toyota War”. In their fight against Colonel Gaddafi’s Libyan troops, Chadian soldiers used Toyota Hilux and Land Cruisers in order to gain mobility against the Libyans. The war ended in a catastrophic defeat for Libya who lost an estimated $1.5 billion of military equipment and 7,500 troops killed in comparison to the 1,000 Chadian troops killed.

“Toyota has a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities.”

– Toyota Spokesperson

In the Soviet-Afghan War, even Soviet soldiers were not averse to the capitalist technology of Toyota. There are various photographs of Soviet troops, primarily Spetznaz special forces, using the Hilux or Land Cruisers mounted with classic Soviet-made weaponry like the DShK.

In the 1990s and early noughties, the Toyota technical began appearing in a string of conflicts from Africa to the Middle East. It soon found a role on all sides of various bitter conflicts. From the Northern Alliance and the Taliban to ISIS and the Iraqi Army, its reliability and hardy qualities were appreciated by friend and foe alike.

Tribal Fighters Ambush High-Speed ISIS Toyota Hilux at Close Range
Image By TheCarColony

Whilst many, including the U.S. Government, have pointed the finger at the trusted Japanese car brand due to the overwhelming amount of their vehicles falling into the hands of terrorists, guerrillas, and paramilitary forces around the world, it is not, in fairness, the auto manufacturers fault. When the question was put to Toyota, the auto manufacturers spokesperson made the following statement.

“Toyota has a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities. However, it is impossible for any automaker to control indirect or illegal channels through which our vehicles could be misappropriated, stolen, or re-sold by independent third parties”.

The role Toyota SUVs play in modern warfare has even spawned a popular Instagram page followed by tens of thousands of war buffs and vehicle lovers. @ToyotasofWar focuses on various photographs of the vehicle brand used in conflict zones across the world from Africa to Afghanistan.

To round off this article, the best quote to understand the importance of this vehicle brand in modern warfare and the fast-changing world of Geopolitics comes from Auto Evolution: “The Toyota pickup truck is instrumental to people in the Western world, but never forget that this humble tool you haul and tow things with also has the power to shape the borders of the world we’re living in.”

Join YPT on one of our Middle-East Tours, and who knows maybe even see a Toyota.

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