A government watchdog group says the U.S. military is leaving behind 75,000 vehicles, 600,000 weapons and 208 aircraft in Afghanistan as forces evacuate the country after a 20-year war.
We’ve made the Taliban into a major U.S. arms dealer for the next decade,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of Open the Books. “They now control 75,000 military vehicles. This is about 50,000 tactical vehicles, 20,000 Humvees they control about 1,000 mine-resistant vehicles, and even about 150 armored personnel carriers.”
Since 2001, the U.S. has spent $83 billion on Afghan security forces through training and equipment, he said.
“We built them a pretty amazing war chest and now all of it is in the hands of the Taliban,” said Andrzejewski. “We know that last month, as late as July, seven new helicopters were being delivered in the capital city of Kabul.”
While the watchdog was able to tally up equipment to be left behind, the group said the numbers are not complete.
“We found a Federal Audit that detailed up to $200 million worth of drones that had disappeared,” Andrzejewski said. “We don’t know where 600,000 weapons are within the country.”
The left-behind equipment and weapons are worth billions.
“While it’s virtually impossible to operate advanced aircraft without training, seizing the hardware gives the militants a propaganda boost and underscores the amount of wasted funds on U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan over the last 20 years,” The Hill reported this week.
“When an armed group gets their hands on American-made weaponry, it’s sort of a status symbol. It’s a psychological win,” Elias Yousif, deputy director of the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor, told the website. “Clearly, this is an indictment of the U.S. security cooperation enterprise broadly. It really should raise a lot of concerns about what is the wider enterprise that is going on every single day, whether that’s in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia.”
The Hill reported that “between 2003 and 2016, the United States transferred 75,898 vehicles, 599,690 weapons, 162,643 pieces of communications equipment, 208 aircraft, and 16,191 pieces of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment to Afghan forces, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report. From 2017 to 2019, the United States also gave Afghan forces 7,035 machine guns, 4,702 Humvees, 20,040 hand grenades, 2,520 bombs and 1,394 grenade launchers, among other equipment, according to a report last year from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the equipment is lost to the Taliban, “and obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”
“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,” he added.
Still, Sullivan defended President Joe Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, saying “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.”
“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.”