by Thomas Catenacci
When the Taliban assumed control of Afghanistan last month, the group took possession of a U.S.-funded weapons stockpile worth tens of billions of dollars.
The U.S. invested nearly $83 billion in bolstering the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), more than $24 billion of which went to funding weapons, vehicles and other equipment, according to a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report published in July. The amount of funding for weapons, vehicles and equipment is based on a 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimate that roughly 70% of the investment went towards other budget items like training.
In the aftermath of the shocking collapse of the Western-backed Afghan government last month, U.S. defense officials estimated that Taliban militants took dozens of aircraft including Blackhawk helicopters and thousands of vehicles, communications equipment and weapons. Republican lawmakers demanded the Biden administration provide them with a full accounting of the equipment that was in the Taliban’s possession while GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee introduced a bill requiring the White House to share the information with Congress.
“No one has any accounting of exactly what survived the last weeks of the collapse and fell into Taliban hands, and even before the collapse, SIGAR had publicly reported no accounting was possible in many districts,” Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst Anthony Cordesman told The Washington Post.
“In rough terms, however, if the ANDSF could not sustain it without foreign contractors, the Taliban will have very serious problems in operating it,” he continued. “That covers most aircraft and many electronics and heavier weapons.”
While Cordesman predicted the Taliban would have trouble operating the advanced equipment included in the U.S. cache left behind, Republicans worried the Taliban would provide that complex hardware to U.S. foes China, Russia and Iran.
Overall, the U.S. gave more than 599,690 arms including rifles, pistols, machine guns and rocket-propelled weapons, more than 16,191 pieces of surveillance equipment including night-vision goggles and radio monitoring systems, and more than 208 aircraft including helicopters, cargo airplanes, fighter jets and surveillance drones to the ANDSF since 2004, according to the GAO. The July SIGAR report estimated that 80% of the aircraft given to the ANDSF was usable.
President Joe Biden said in July that the Afghanistan army would be able to withstand Taliban offensives since the U.S. had provided it with “all the tools, training, and equipment of any modern military.”
Some experts have also argued that the billions of dollars used to train Afghan soldiers may indirectly be used by the Taliban, according to The Los Angeles Times. Some Taliban fighters seen in recent videos posted online were likely trained by the U.S. military based on their behavior.
“The stance, the way they’re holding the rifles, the trigger finger, how’s it’s flat and laying outside the trigger guard,” Project on Government Oversight defense policy analyst Dan Grazier told the LA Times. “That’s hallmark American military training right there.”
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Thomas Catenacci is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Afghan, coalition forces” by ResoluteSupportMedia CC BY 2.0.