Why Do the Taliban and ISIS Prefer Toyota Pickup Trucks Over Anything Else?

The Toyota pickup truck has long been the preferred truck of guerilla combatants. Obviously, with the quickly turning tide in Afghanistan following the pulling out of American troops, people have begun to notice that the Taliban is joining ISIS in being well-heeled in the Toyota 4×4 department. Toyota pickup trucks and Toyota Land Cruisers are seen in large numbers in ISIS propaganda videos and the re-taking of Kabul by the Taliban. The U.S. Counter-Terrorist officials want to know why. 

Taliban loaded into the back of an old Toyota pickup truck
Taliban | Getty Images

How is the Taliban getting all of these Toyota pickup trucks? 

American counter-terrorism agencies have been talking with Toyota to figure out how so many terrorist organizations have managed to acquire so many Toyota pickup trucks. As Quartz reported, when the Taliban seized the presidential palace in the capital city of Kabul on Sunday, “it marked the return to power of one of Toyota’s most loyal — and most regrettable — customers.”

According to ABC News, in 2015, Toyota was unaware of how these terrorist organizations managed to get so many of its products. However, Toyota was supporting the tracking of its products to get to the bottom of it. 

While it is nearly impossible to track most stolen vehicles, Toyota has been working on trying to see where the registered trucks have gone in the area. We see this now with the new Land Cruiser secret VIN meant to make it harder to scrub stolen cars’ VIN. Along with this cooperation, Toyota has a ​​“strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities,” says Ed Lewis, Toyota’s Washington-based director of public policy and communications. 

Just like everyone else, the Taliban and ISIS knows Toyota makes a strong truck

Taliban forces riding down the road in Toyota pickup trucks
Taliban riding in Toyota Hilux back in 1996 | Getty Images

Here in America, the Toyota Tacoma is the go-to tough little pickup truck that supports a myriad of truck tasks. This model is good for literally anything truck-related; towing, overlanding, camping, working, and so on. Overseas, the Toyota Hilux is the equivalent model, and the Taliban clearly loves it, too, for all the same reasons.

The Toyota Hilux and the Toyota Land Cruisers have become staples in videos of the ISIS campaign in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. The little trucks have their beds loaded with heavy weapons and cabs jammed with terrorists. This trend follows suit with the Taliban’s most recent activities.

While Toyota has a strict no sales to militant groups policy, the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily, told ABC News that in addition to re-purposing older trucks, his government believes ISIS has acquired “hundreds” of “brand new” Toyotas over the years. 

Unfortunately, Toyota 4x4s have become a part of terrorist branding

For basically as long as Toyota has been making nearly indestructible pickup trucks, various militant groups have adopted them as their official do-dirt machines. From the 10-year conflict between Chad and Libya starting in the late ‘70s through this past week, terrorists and militant guerrilla groups have leaned heavily on these reliable Toyota pickup trucks. 

The Taliban, ISIS, and others prefer these trucks for the same reason a rancher in Wyoming might; they are dependable, relatively affordable, and plentiful. As the new 2022 Toyota Land Cruiser rolls out, Quartz notes that the automaker instituted a new clause: those buying the vehicles must sign a contract promising not to resell them for at least a year. This is so that Land Cruiser buyers can’t resell the 4×4 SUVs to these foul groups. 

Toyota is “concerned about the flow of vehicles from Japan to overseas immediately after their release, as well as the possibility of them being exported to certain regions where security regulations are in place.”

While Toyota certainly isn’t to blame for the unsavory Toyota placement in the many crimes against humanity enacted by ISIS and the Taliban, they will continue to use them until they stop being the most affordable and rugged options. 

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