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New Report Indicates U.S. Left Over $7 Billion in Military Equipment in Afghanistan

Afghan security forces sit in a Humvee amid ongoing fighting with Taliban militants. Getty Images
Afghan security forces sit in a Humvee amid ongoing fighting with Taliban militants. Getty Images

Around $7.12 billion in American-funded military equipment ranging from military aircrafts, ground vehicles, firearms, munitions, and other military equipment was still in possession of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) when the government in collapsed in 2020, according to a newly released report by the Pentagon outlining the exact damage and consequences of the withdrawal one year ago. 

At the time the U.S. exited Afghanistan, the Biden administration admitted that the Taliban had captured a significant amount of military equipment provided to the Afghan security forces but could not say how much was left behind. 

According to the report by Sean W. O’Donnell, the Pentagon’s lead inspector for Operation Enduring Sentinel and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the $7.12 billion from the Department of Defense covers roughly 38 percent of the $18.6 billion collected for creating and developing weapons and military equipment for the former Afghan military between 2005 and 2021.

The report specifies the types of equipment that was left behind including the ground vehicles for the Afghan forces from 2005 to 2021 which was comprised of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAP), and other tactical vehicles estimated at around $4 billion. 

The Defense Department’s Inspector General notes that big and more complex military equipment like the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters is inoperable for the Taliban overall, given the lack of logistical support, spare parts, and training among their forces.

With regards to firearms, hundreds of thousands of rifles, pistols, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and other small arms and light weapons were left behind.

According to the report, the operational conditions of the weapons are unknown after the Taliban seized them from Afghan forces. Additionally, the state of military equipment such as night vision devices, surveillance equipment, and other ancillary gear supplied to the Afghan forces for several years is unknown. However, with  journalists and activists from Kabul posting videos and photographs on social media showing that Taliban forces are using such items, we know they’re being used. 

Since 2005, the Defense Department procured around 427,300 weapons worth around $612 million for the Afghan army, including 258,300 rifles, 6,300 sniper rifles, 64,300 pistols, 561,55 machine guns, 31,000 rocket-propelled grenade launches and 224 howitzers. Around 316,260 of these weapons, worth $511.8 million, were possessed by the Afghan force’s inventory when the former government fell and are now in the hands of the Taliban, according to the report.

While these latest developments have shocked many, some analysts argue that the information might be unable to estimate accurately the amount of military equipment left behind. In a 2017 report by the U.S. government found that the American military supplied around 75k vehicles, 600k weapons systems, and 200 aircraft to the Afghan army between 2003 and 2016. In 2020, a Special Inspector General for the Afghanistan Reconstruction Initiative found an additional 7,000 machine guns sent to the Afghan forces.

When the Biden administration pulled out of Afghanistan in August 2020, the decision led to what many have described as a devastating blow to America’s standing in the world and national security. The latest report from the Pentagon highlights how much the Taliban acquired last year and the military means against Afghan civilians resisting their rule.

Under Taliban rule, the Islamic terror group Al Qaeda has found refuge in Afghanistan, plotting terrorist attacks against Americans and training future terrorist fighters. 

“The exploitation of the material left behind is not only in the hands of the Taliban but available to other terrorist groups such as the Haqqani network since they are part of the Taliban regime,” said David R. Shedd, a retired U.S. intelligence officer at the CIA. 

According to Shedd, other international terrorist groups in Afghanistan like Al Qaeda “could have access to the American military equipment left behind in Afghanistan based on informal ties that most likely remain unchanged between the Taliban and terrorists not formally part of the Afghan regime.” The Taliban, for its part, has touted captured weaponry and military equipment, including special weapons like U.S. Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifles, and flying Black Hawks over Afghanistan airspace.

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