The United States trained and equipped an Afghan force for two decades. And then when it finally came time to fight, the Afghans proved unwilling. A dirty little secret talked about among operators for 20 years, most who had boots on the ground were skeptical the Afghan military would hold the Taliban at bay. But few likely predicted this. Now the Taliban armory overflows with an impressive array of weapons, including rifles, handguns, night vision, troop carriers, aircraft and more.
Taliban Flaunts Arsenal of U.S. Weapons
Our own weapons could soon be pointed at the head of our own war fighters or our allies. They most certainly are already pressed into service against our Afghan allies in country. Even more troubling, some experts fear a Taliban fire sale, with really good weapons and gear headed to a terrorist cell near you.
“We are also concerned that some may end up in the hands of others who support the Taliban’s cause,” a congressional source told CNN. “My biggest fear is that the sophisticated weaponry will be sold to our adversaries and other non-state actors who intend to use it against us and our allies.”
The Biden administration and Pentagon issued several statements in recent days. The narrative suggests we can somehow counter the massive haul of seized weapons. But the images pouring out on social media cast doubt on U.S. claims.
“When it comes to U.S.-provided equipment that is still in Afghanistan and may not be in the hands of ANSF [Afghan National Security Force], there are several options that we have at our disposal to try to deal with that problem set,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday, reported CNN.
“We don’t, obviously, want to see our equipment in the hands of those who would act against our interest or the interest of the Afghan people, and increase violence and insecurity inside Afghanistan,” he said, reported CNN.
The Taliban’s New Armory
The sheer volume of weapons in country looms large. The U.S. reportedly sent more than 600,000 light weapons to Afghanistan between 2013 and 2016, reported CNN. Small arms include M16 and M4 rifles. The U.S. also sent 80,000 vehicles. Throw in night vision goggles and goggles. A GAO report details 7,000 machine guns and 4,700 Humvees sent, reported CNN. The U.S. also provided 20,000 grenades, along with 18 million rounds of 7.62mm and .50-caliber ammo.
In 20 years of fighting, American and allied forces enjoyed a vast technological advantage over the Taliban. We owned the night with our night vision goggles. We maintained weapon superiority with our sheer number of heavy guns and ammo supplies. Now the Taliban seems to gain ground.
But then there’s the aircraft. The Taliban allegedly seized American aircraft recently as well, potentially adding the vaunted Blackhawk helicopter to its inventory. Now that’s a big problem. But U.S. officials continue to downplay it, claiming they lack the means to maintain U.S. aircraft.
“The more sophisticated weaponry is a far greater challenge for the Taliban,” Bill Roggio agreed, reported CNN.
Let’s hope the experts are right. Because we just gave the Taliban its greatest armory to date.