The precipitous departure of the West from Afghanistan and the disappearance of the Afghan army equipped with American equipment allowed the Taliban to get their hands on large stocks comprising armored vehicles, helicopters, planes and small arms.
The footage went around the world: Taliban armed with weapons and fatigues making them look like US special forces agents inspecting Kabul airport on August 30, moments after the last US Army soldiers left. . Since the debacle of the Afghan army, the entry of the Taliban into the Afghan capital and the precipitous flight of former President Ashraf Ghani on August 15, the victory of these ultra-radical Islamists after nearly 20 years of war has left them brought back to the forefront of the media scene.
And now, in front of the cameras of foreign correspondents who are still tolerated, the Taliban exhibit M16 assault rifles and M4 rifles in the American army alongside their eternal kalashnikovs and Soviet RPGs from the Cold War era.
Small arms are not the only ones concerned. Images of Taliban posing in front of US helicopters, including Black Hawks costing up to $ 21 million apiece, and even planes, are being shared on social media.
Billions of dollars in weapons
In 20 years of war, Americans have spent 2.3 trillion dollars in Afghanistan, according to an estimate by Brown University. According to Openthebooks.com, the United States has allocated at least $ 83 billion to arm and train 300,000 Afghan security forces, although exact data is difficult to obtain. Based on two reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO, a United States Congressional audit, evaluation, and investigation body responsible for overseeing the public accounts of the United States federal budget) and the General Inspectorate for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) dated 2017 and 2020, the organization reports, among other things, that 75,898 vehicles and 208 aircraft were supplied to the Afghan armed forces between 2003 and 2016.
According to the GAO again, nearly 600,000 infantry weapons, 162,000 pieces of communication equipment, 16,000 night vision goggles (which cost between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars each) were transported in the country.
Taliban better equipped than Ukrainian army, according to Moscow
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared on August 30 that the United States had abandoned more than a hundred Javelin portable anti-tank missile launchers, which fell directly into the hands of the Taliban, considered a banned terrorist organization. in Russia. According to him, the figure is much higher than the armament made available to the Ukrainian army by the United States.
“If we say that the United States delivered a few dozen Javelins to Ukraine, I no longer remember [exactement], here, there are more than a hundred. Not delivered, but simply fell into the hands [des Taliban]”, He declared on the YouTube channel Soloviev Live.
Then responding to a remark by journalist Vladimir Soloviev according to which the Taliban are “better armed than the Ukrainian army, with more modern weapons”, the minister agreed: “If we count in thousands of soldiers, we can say so. “.
Weapons soon to be put back into circulation?
How many of these weapons actually fell into the hands of the Taliban? The question remains unresolved. Between 40 and 50 Afghan army planes have escaped their control and are in Uzbekistan after 500 soldiers used them to flee the country. Still others were in maintenance in the United States at the time of the fall of Kabul.
“We do not have a complete idea, of course, where all military defense equipment went, but certainly a good part of them fell into the hands of the Taliban”, admitted the Councilor to the United States National Security Jake Sullivan Aug. 17.
It is inconceivable that high-tech military equipment paid for by American taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies.
The Republican camp logically stepped into the breach to criticize the Biden administration in a political landscape still marked by the melodrama of the transfer of power with Donald Trump: “It is inconceivable that high-tech military equipment paid for by taxpayers Americans fell into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies. Securing US assets should have been among the top priorities of the US Department of Defense before announcing the retreat from Afghanistan, ”reads a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed on August 18 by 25 senators led by Republican Marco Rubio. Elected officials also demanded a precise assessment of the number of weapons in the possession of the Taliban.
According to an anonymous US official quoted by Reuters, on August 12, US intelligence then estimated at least 2,000 armored vehicles, including Humvees carriers, and up to 40 aircraft including UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters or ScanEagle military drones recovered. by the Taliban.
After leaving Kabul airport, the US military said they had sabotaged the military equipment that was still there. General Kenneth McKenzie declared that 73 aircraft “will never fly again” after being “demilitarized”, ditto for 70 MRAP mine-resistant armored vehicles ($ 1 million each), 27 light Humvee vehicles and their anti-aircraft defense system. -missile C-RAM.
While we may have doubts about the Taliban’s ability to use and maintain the helicopters or planes they have been able to recover in working order, the latter can still derive comfortable profits from resale: “For example, the only control stick of some military aircraft has an acquisition value of $ 17,808 [15 086 euros] and a fuel tank sells for up to $ 35,000 [29 650 euros]», Openthebook notes. The same goes for small arms which may be of interest to many buyers. Enough to assure the Taliban of the funds they will need while their coffers have been undermined by the freezing of the assets of the Afghan Central Bank held in the United States, and the end of international aid after their victory.
These weapons could also be used to destroy the last centers of resistance to the Taliban in the Panshir valley, which is now the scene of fighting.