The Taliban Got Their Hands on American Military Gear Because We Invaded Afghanistan, Not Because We Withdrew
When a group of Taliban fighters stormed the hastily abandoned presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this week, they carried a powerful symbol of the changing times: American-issued M16 and M4 rifles.
It’s not just a propaganda coup. As the Taliban swept into full control of Afghanistan this week, they also claimed a cornucopia of military gear, equipment, and weapons that had been supplied to the Afghan government by the United States. There’s no way to determine how much American military gear has ended up in the hands of Taliban fighters, but the “current intelligence assessment was that the Taliban are believed to control more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones,” Reuters reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed U.S. official.
The aircraft and drones are probably useless without training and support staff. But the Humvees and small arms are exactly the sorts of things that a new regime could use to impose its will on the people of Afghanistan. After nearly 20 years of fighting, the Taliban that America is leaving behind is almost certainly better-supplied than it was when the U.S. military invaded in October 2001.
During the occupation, the U.S. transferred more than 600,000 guns (including those M16 and M4 rifles), 76,000 vehicles, and 162,000 pieces of communication equipment to the Afghan security forces, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (the report itself has seemingly been deleted from the GAO’s website).
Since those figures are several years old, the actual totals are almost certainly higher.
“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone,” Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, said Tuesday. “But certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban, and obviously we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”
Be careful not to draw unrealistic
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