Billions of dollars of US weaponry FALLS into Talibans hands: 40 aircraft, thousands of armored vehicles, high-tech equipment, DOD officials tell Reuters.
Black Hawk helicopters, night vision goggles, 2,000 armored vehicles and hundreds of thousands of guns were seized by the militants as the now-defunct Afghan army fled Kabul, Reuters reported.
The US has spent around $83 BILLION on training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces over the last 20 years.
east 46 of those aircraft are now in Uzbekistan after more than 500 Afghan troops used them to flee as the government in Kabul collapsed over the weekend.
It is unclear exactly how many weapons have fallen into the hands of the Taliban, but the Biden administration has acknowledged it’s a “fair amount.”
“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday. “And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”
Still, Sullivan defended President Biden’s decisionmaking in leaving the Afghan forces with high-end equipment.
Even as the U.S. military was withdrawing from Afghanistan, the United States kept aircraft flowing to the Afghans, in July touting plans to send 35 Black Hawk helicopters and three A-29s.
“Those Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban. They were given to the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to defend themselves at the specific request of [Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani, who came to the Oval Office and asked for additional air capability, among other things,” Sullivan said.
“So the president had a choice. He could not give it to them with the risk that it would fall into the Taliban’s hands eventually, or he could give it to them with the hope that they could deploy it in service of defending their country,” Sullivan continued. “Both of those options had risks. He had to choose. And he made a choice.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Wednesday also held there was a “very deliberate” process as U.S. forces withdrew in deciding what equipment to destroy, give to Afghan forces or redeploy elsewhere in the Middle East.
While the Taliban may be “keen” to use some of the more advanced U.S. weaponry, including the aircraft, the militants likely would not be able to keep them in the air for long even if they could coax former Afghan pilots into flying for them, said Yousif of the Center for International Policy.
“They may be able to manage a flight or two or to operate them in some really limited capacity in the short term, but without long-term sustainment, maintenance, servicing, that sort of thing, it wouldn’t turn into a robust or useful military capability,” he said. “It took the Afghans and the United States a long time to develop an indigenous air capability, and even then, they were reliant on the United States to keep those planes in the sky.”
A more immediate concern, Yousif said, is that so many small arms were left behind.
“They are easy to maintain, easy to learn how to use, easy to transport,” he said. “The concern for all small arms is that they are durable goods and they can be transferred, sold. We’ve seen this before where a conflict ends and the arms that stay there make their way to all parts of the world.”
On Wednesday, more than two dozen Republican senators demanded a “full accounting” of U.S. military equipment given to Afghan forces over the past 12 months, what’s been seized by the Taliban and what plans there are to either recapture or destroy the equipment.
“As we watched the images coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban retook the country, we were horrified to see U.S. equipment — including UH-60 Black Hawks — in the hands of the Taliban,” the 25 senators, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” they added. “Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Wednesday declined to comment on the possibility of destroying equipment, saying the military’s focus right now is on evacuation operations. Still, Milley told reporters that “we obviously have capabilities.”
“We don’t obviously want to see our equipment in the hands of those who would act against our interest or the interest of the Afghan people and increase violence and insecurity inside Afghanistan,” Kirby said in his own briefing. “There are numerous policy choices that can be made, up to and including destruction, and what I would tell you at this point is those decisions about disposition of that level of equipment in Afghanistan haven’t been made yet.”
On the following video American contractor who was in Kabul when the Taliban arrived filmed an arsenal of weapons that were left unguarded at the airport in the Afghan capital