Taliban Seize U.S. Weapons in Afghanistan, Stockpiling Helicopters, Guns and Trucks
Afghanistan’s military has laid down its weapons, and the Taliban have wasted little time in collecting them, raising concerns about how easily troves of U.S.-made arms, military aircraft and armored vehicles have fallen into enemy hands and the new capabilities they bring.
Scores of videos have emerged of Taliban fighters rejoicing near abandoned American helicopters, carrying U.S.-supplied M24 sniper rifles and M18 assault weapons, stacking other small arms and materiel in unending piles and driving Humvees and other U.S.-made military trucks.
The Taliban have seized airplanes, tanks and artillery from Afghan outposts and from evacuating U.S. personnel, revealing one of the heavier costs of a U.S. troop withdrawal amid a collapse of Afghanistan’s government and army.
“We obviously don’t want to see our equipment in the hands of those who would act against our interests, or the interests of the Afghan people,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing this week.
The U.S. sent nearly 600,000 small arms, 76,000 vehicles and 208 airplanes to Afghanistan’s military and police from 2003 to 2016, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report, one of the few such compilations. The most recent quarterly report of the U.S.-led military coalition documented deliveries of 174 Humvees, nearly three million rounds of ammunition, and nearly 100,000 2.75-inch rockets during the period.
The U.S. has also transferred anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to Afghan forces. In all, Washington has spent more than $80 billion over 20 years on the Afghan forces, government auditors have said.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters earlier this week that the administration doesn’t know where all of the military equipment has gone since delivery nor how much of it the Taliban have captured.
The Taliban’s seizure of U.S. materiel stokes fears of a replay of events in Iraq, when the Islamic State extremist group was amassing territory. The U.S. conducted occasional missions to destroy U.S.-made equipment that initially was transferred to Iraqi forces but later fell into Islamic State control.
Military officials declined to comment this week about possible U.S. plans to disable military equipment to prevent the Taliban from appropriating more of it.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, 25 Republican senators requested an inventory of U.S. military equipment provided to the Afghan Armed Forces in the last year, the amount disabled before the U.S. withdrawal, and Taliban seizures.