US national security officials are working to account for more than 20 years worth of weapons provided to the Afghan military as images of Taliban fighters brandishing American-made rifles and riding in abandoned Humvees are raising concerns about what else was left behind.
The Taliban’s newly acquired American arsenal is not limited to small arms. They have seized large stockpiles weapons and vehicles from strongholds previously controlled by US-backed forces. These include modern mine-resistant vehicles (MRAPs), and Humvees.
According to a source familiar with the initial assessments made by defense officials, initial estimates indicate that the Taliban could also have several Black Hawk helicopters.
The source indicated that this could include approximately 20 A-29 Tucano attack aircrafts. However, there are indications that only a few aircraft were moved from Kandahar’s base before being overrun by Taliban.
Source said that they are concerned that some might end up in the hands other supporters of the Taliban’s cause. “My greatest fear is that sophisticated weaponry might be sold to our enemies and other non-state actors who plan to use it against us or our allies,” the source said.
It’s unclear exactly how much equipment fell into Taliban hands during the collapse of the Afghan military, and the US is unlikely to get a perfect and precise answer to that question because there is no longer a US troop and intelligence presence throughout the country, two defense officials told
One official stated that there is no accountability for what was left.
The Biden administration has faced a wave of criticism for failing to anticipate the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghnistan and for the chaos unfolding at Kabul’s airport as thousands of people attempt to flee the country.
While the Administration’s main focus remains evacuation operations, officials at the Pentagon as well as the State Department are beginning to inventory the American weapons that have fallen to Taliban hands. This effort, sources tell Daily Reuters, will likely take weeks to months due to the sheer amount of arms that were provided to Afghan forces in the past two decades.
Photographs and videos of Taliban fighters armed with US-supplied M4 and M16 carbines are raising questions about the amount of American firepower that the militant group has now, after seizing military bases in Afghanistan.
Although the US insists that it is too soon to give details on specific weapons or vehicles currently under Taliban control, Pentagon officials already have concerns.
John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, stated that U.S.-provided equipment still being in Afghanistan may not be in the hands ANSF [Afghan National Security Force] but there are many options available to us to address that problem.
He said, “We don’t want to see our equipment go in the hands of people who would act against us or the Afghan people, and increase violence, insecurity, inside Afghanistan.”
According to administration officials, the US has no plans to strike the weapons with airstrikes or any other means at this time.