Taliban’s haul of US military gear includes 2,000 armoured vehicles and 40 aircraft

‘Ironically, the fact that our equipment breaks down so often is a life-saver here,’ one American official says

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Thursday 19 August 2021 18:35 BST
Taliban militants workout in deserted gym

The Taliban’s haul of US military gear provided to the Afghan army includes 2,000 armoured vehicles and 40 aircraft, officials say.

The militant group swept into power in Kabul this week and now controls the high-tech arsenal of weaponry and equipment left behind by the fleeing Afghan forces.

American intelligence officials told Reuters says that this could include US Humvees, UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones.

“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” one US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the news outlet.

Officials say the White House is so concerned about the Taliban’s new weapons cache it is considering a string of options to deal with it, which could include airstrikes against larger pieces of equipment such as helicopters.

It is estimated that between 2002 and 2017 the US provided the Afghan military with around $28bn worth of weaponry, which includes guns, night-vision equipment, rockets and drones.

And since 2003 the US has provided Afghanistan with 600,000 infantry weapons, such as M16 assault rifles, 16,000 sets of night vision goggles, and 162,000 pieces of communications equipment.

“The ability to operate at night is a real game-changer,” a congressional aide told Reuters.

As Taliban forces took control of Kabul, US officials say that as many as 50 aircraft were flown by Afghan pilots to Uzbekistan, while other aircraft were already back in the US for maintenance.

US officials said that while the Taliban having control of helicopters is concerning, the equipment is complicated to use and needs a high-level of maintenance.

“Ironically, the fact that our equipment breaks down so often is a life-saver here,” one official told Reuters.

Retired US Army General Joseph Votel, who was head of US Central Command between 2016 and 2019, said that most of the equipment did not contain sensitive US technology.

“In some cases, some of these will be more like trophies,” he said.

The US had set a deadline of 31 August for all US personnel to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, but Joe Biden has said this may be extended until all Americans can be taken out of the country.

Reuters contributed to this report

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