How much US military gear remains in Afghanistan?

US defence official confirms the Taliban’s accumulation of US-supplied Afghan equipment is enormous

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The Taliban now have their hands US firepower including helicopters, guns, ammunition and more. Though the exact value of the US-supplied Afghan equipment the Taliban have secured is unknown, defence officials have confirmed it is significant.

The Pentagon had given most of the weaponry to Afghanistan's US-trained-and-funded police and security forces, but with their total rout during this month's Taliban takeover of the country, the militants have snatched it up and may even try to build an air force.

But claims that the Taliban possess US military equipment worth between $80 billion and $85bn are "significantly inflated," according to reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which oversees American taxpayer money spent on the conflict.

Much of the military equipment would also be obsolete after years of use, according to Dan Grazier, a defence policy analyst at the Project on Government Oversight.

American troops also disabled equipment including Humvees and aircraft so they could not be used again, according to Marine Gen Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command.

This is in stark contrast to claims made by political figures such as former US president Donald Trump, Republican House Representatives Jim Banks and Lauren Boebert and Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn.

Mr Banks, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, read out an exhaustive list of equipment he claimed the Taliban now possess.

"We now know, that due to the negligence of [President Joe Biden's] administration, the Taliban now has access to over $85 billion worth of American military equipment," he said.

The gear, Mr Banks noted, includes 75,000 vehicles, more than 200 helicopters and aeroplanes, as well as more than 600,000 small arms and light weapons.

The Taliban now have access to more Black Hawk helicopters than 85 per cent of countries in the world, he continued.

“But they don't just have weapons. They have night-vision goggles, body armour, medical supplies and, unbelievably … the Taliban now [have] biometric devices,” Mr Banks said.

These biometric devices, he added, “have the fingerprints, eye scans and the biographical information of the Afghans who helped us over the last 20 years".

One US official said: "Everything that hasn't been destroyed is the Taliban's now".

Mr Biden is facing by far the biggest crisis of his presidency as the Pentagon races to finish its withdrawal from Afghanistan before next Tuesday's deadline.

On Thursday, some 170 people including 13 US troops were killed in a suicide bombing at Kabul's airport, in what is believed to be the deadliest attack in the 20-year war.

Current and former US officials fear that the weapons and equipment seized by the Taliban could be used on civilians or commandeered by other militant groups for use in attacks on US interests in the region. They also say the weapons and equipment could be handed over to US rivals, including China and Russia.

“We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with US-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces. This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies,” said Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The Biden administration is said to have such a high level of concern over the weapons that it is considering options for taking them back.

This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies
Michael McCaul, US representative

Officials say launching air strikes on larger pieces of equipment, such as aircraft, remains an option, but there is concern that doing so would antagonise the Taliban at a time when the US is desperate to keep the peace as it completes its chaotic withdrawal.

Updated: September 02, 2021, 1:44 PM