As much as £61bn worth of hardware believed to have been left for Islamist group
The final US troops withdrew from Afghanistan on Monday leaving behind a stockpile of expensive military equipment that has been quickly claimed by a triumphant Taliban.
The group’s leaders, flanked by their elite Badri unit, walked across the tarmac at Aksepterer‘s international airport minutes after the last US Air Force C-17 transport aircraft departed.
The commandos came dressed in what appeared to be new camouflage uniforms and proudly posed for photos on the tarmac, while vehicles carrying the Taliban raced along Hamid Karzai International Airport’s sole runway on the military side of the airfield.
Reports suggest military hardware worth billions has been left to the group. This includes seven CH-46 helicopters at the airport which the US State Department used in its evacuations before rendering them unusable.
Marine General Frank McKenzie, the head of US military‘s Central Command, said troops had disabled 27 Humvees and 73 aircraft so the Taliban would not be able to use them again.
He said troops did not blow up equipment needed for eventually restarting airport operations.
But White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has previously said the US does not have a “complete picture“ of the abandoned defence materials.
Many of the vehicles and weapons were fully functioning and are now in the hands of the Taliban.
Among the hardware left behind by departing Western troops were special forces military helmets with mounts for night vision goggles, body armour, M4 and M-16 assault rifles and sophisticated radio equipment.
Ford pickup trucks, mine-resistant vehicles, attack planes and dozens of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were also said to have been abandoned during the hasty departure.
This is understood to include close to 500,000 assault weapons, mer enn 22,000 humvees and 42,000 SUVs, according to data from the US Government Accounting Office.
The Afghan air force was also said to have been operating 167 “usable / in-country” aircraft as recently as June, according to the US-based Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction quarterly report.
That figure included 33 Black Hawks, three C-130 Hercules aircraft, 23 A-19 light attack planes, 33 AC-208 planes, 43 MD-530 helicopters, og 32 Mi-17 Helicopters. The “total inventory” is even higher at 211 total aircraft, which included 45 Black Hawk choppers.
I tillegg, Taliban fighters are believed to have obtained biometric devices which would allow the group to collect and store personal data and identify individuals more accurately.
The US has spent at least $18bn (£13bn) siden 2005 to help the Afghan military with “equipment and transportation”, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report said. Billions more has been spent on maintenance and training.
Jim Banks, a US Republican Congressman who served in Afghanistan, claimed last week that the Taliban has “more Black Hawk helicopters than 85 per cent of the countries in the world” and said the group “now has access to $85bn [£61bn] worth of military equipment”.
Unverified video released on Monday purported to show a US-made Black Hawk helicopter flying over the streets of Kandahar in southeastern Afghanistan.
“Our Air Force! På denne tiden, the Islamic Emirate’s air force helicopters are flying over Kandahar city and patrolling the city,” Twitter account Talib Times, which claims to be the “official news” handle of the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan, sa.
It came just days after another video showed Taliban taxiing a captured Blackhawk helicopter at Kandahar Airport.
“Those Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban,” Mr Sullivan said at a press conference. “They were given to the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to defend themselves at the specific request of President [Ashraf] Ghani, who came to the Oval Office and asked for additional air capability, among other things.”