(Washington) The defeat of the Afghan army allowed the Taliban to seize considerable US military equipment and images of insurgents parading with US weapons permeated social media, embarrassing the Biden administration.
Posted on Aug 18, 2021 at 3:48 pm
Sylvie LANTEAUME Agence France-Presse
There is an abundance of videos on social media of Taliban fighters seizing a shipment of arms, largely delivered by Western powers to the Afghan army, happily posing in front of Black Hawk attack helicopters, wielding M4 and M16 automatic weapons, even M24 sniper rifles, used by snipers or circulating in armored vehicles equipped with rocket launchers.
Embarrassing images for Joe Biden, whose management of the withdrawal from Afghanistan is under fire from critics
“We obviously don’t have a precise idea of where each device is, but it is certain that a good number have fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” White House national security adviser Jake told Sullivan on Tuesday.
“And we don’t get the impression that they intend to give them back to us,” he added.
An admission that some Republicans have used to criticize the Democratic president’s decisions.
“Thanks to Biden’s failed withdrawal, the Taliban are better equipped than ever before,” tweeted Republican Party President Ronna McDaniel on Tuesday.
“Joe Biden is in favor of controlling arms sales, except when it comes to providing the Taliban with billions in military weapons,” commented Trump-elected Lauren Boebert on Wednesday.
Washington has spent $ 83 billion over 20 years training and equipping the Afghan army.
According to the Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (Sigar), a body of Congress, the US military has approved more than 7,000 machine guns, 4,700 Humvee armored vehicles and more than 20,000 grenades in recent years for the Afghan army.
It also delivered more than 200 aircraft to the Afghan Air Force, but only 167 were airworthy as of June 30, according to a recent report from Sigar.
The most dangerous weapons seized by the Taliban are Soviet D-30 howitzers and Afghan Air Force aircraft, according to Jonathan Schroden, counter-terrorism expert at Washington consultancy CNA.coins.
“It is not certain that they can use all of the captured aircraft, but they have already proven that they know how to use these howitzers,” he told AFP.
Some equipment appears to have been rescued by elements of the Afghan army who refused to surrender. The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that 500 to 600 Afghan special forces had joined the US military at Kabul airport and had helped secure the crime scene.
The trade magazine Jane’s published satellite images on Wednesday showing that around 40 Afghan Air Force aircraft have landed in Uzbekistan in the past few days to prevent the insurgents from falling into their hands.
26 helicopters, including five UH-60 Black Hawks, 16 Soviet Mi-17s and five Mi-25s, along with 21 planes, were spotted at Termez Airport in southern Uzbekistan on Monday, Janes said. 208 and 10 A-29 Super Tucano.
Even if the Taliban do not have pilots who can fly the American helicopters, the Pentagon plans to destroy the weapons seized by the insurgents, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.
During the withdrawal operations, the US military evacuated the country or destroyed large numbers of weapons and equipment to prevent them from falling into the hands of insurgents, he recalled during a press conference.
“It is evident that we do not want our equipment in the hands of anyone who will risk acting against our interests or the interests of the Afghan people and exacerbating violence and insecurity in Afghanistan,” he added.
The Pentagon “has yet to decide” what to do with them, he said. “We have several options available […] including destruction ”.