The Taliban is in possession of nearly $7.2 billion in U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons, ammunition, and aircraft as a result of the Biden administration’s bungled 2021 military withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to a government watchdog.
“Nearly $7.2 billion worth of aircraft, guns, vehicles, ammunition, and specialized equipment” was abandoned in Afghanistan when the Biden administration carried out its rushed evacuation, according to a report published in late February by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the federal watchdog group that monitors U.S. expenditures in the country.
“At least 78 aircraft worth $923.3 million, 9,524 air-to-ground munitions valued at $6.54 million, over 40,000 vehicles, more than 300,000 weapons, and nearly all night vision, surveillance, communications, and biometric equipment provided to the [Afghan defense forces] were left behind,” according to information disclosed in SIGAR’s report.
The report comes ahead of the first public hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal in the Republican-controlled House Wednesday and is likely to fuel questions on why the administration failed to prevent the Taliban from stealing U.S. military hardware. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R., Texas) says the Biden administration has stonewalled his committee’s attempts to obtain documents that could provide a window into the administration’s mishandling of the operation.
The Pentagon told SIGAR investigators that there “currently is no realistic way to retrieve the materiel that remains in Afghanistan, given that the United States does not recognize the Taliban as a government,” according to the report.
Taliban units now “patrol in pickup trucks and armored vehicles likely procured by the U.S.,” according to the report. Taliban-run special operations forces also “wear helmets with night vision mounts likely provided by the United States, and carry U.S.-provided M4 rifles equipped with advanced gunsights.”
The terrorist group also is using “more advanced U.S.-provided equipment,” such as armored vehicles and Mi-17 helicopters.
Furthermore, the Taliban is recruiting former Afghan military personnel to join its air force and fly the abandoned U.S. planes. “The pilots working for the Taliban reportedly need jobs and say the Taliban are the most reliable employer in Afghanistan,” according to the report.
A portion of the most advanced equipment and technology “remains vulnerable to exploitation by adversarial states” who want to analyze how U.S. weapons systems work. This includes “optical and communications equipment, computer software and hardware, and biometrical data.”
SIGAR also found evidence the Taliban is “attempting to summon former government employees to provide access to servers belonging to the former government that included biometric data.”
Another concern is that the Taliban “could sell a portion of the captured arms and equipment to augment its revenue flow.”