The Taliban has seized billions in American weaponry and equipment from Afghan security forces, The Hill reports.
Photos have circulated online showing Taliban fighters holding US-made M4 carbines and M16 rifles and rolling around in American Humvees and mine-resistant vehicles.
The Taliban has also seized Black Hawk helicopters and an A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft, according to the report.
While the advanced aircraft is difficult to operate without specialized training, the fall of the Afghan military has provided Taliban fighters with billions in American weapons and equipment. It also provides them a major propaganda tool.
“When an armed group gets their hands on American-made weaponry, it's sort of a status symbol. It's a psychological win,” Elias Yousif, deputy director of the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor, told The Hill.
“Clearly, this is an indictment of the U.S. security cooperation enterprise broadly,” he added. “It really should raise a lot of concerns about what is the wider enterprise that is going on every single day, whether that's in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia.”
US spent $83B on weapons for Afghans:
The United States has spent around $83 billion to train and equip the Afghan forces since the war began 20 years ago.
The US has sent more than 75,000 vehicles, nearly 600,000 weapons, and more than 200 aircraft to the Afghan forces between 2003 and 2016.
Since 2017, the US has sent another 7,000 machine guns, 4,700 Humvees, 20,000 hand grenades, and over 1,300 grenade launches.
Some of the aircraft was used by Afghan troops to flee the country when the government collapsed last week.
“Fair amount” of weapons hijacked:
It’s unclear exactly how much of the weaponry and equipment is now in Taliban hands but White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan admitted it was a “fair amount.”
“We don't have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” he said. “And obviously, we don't have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”
“Those Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban. They were given to the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to defend themselves at the specific request of [Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani, who came to the Oval Office and asked for additional air capability, among other things,” he added. “So the president had a choice. He could not give it to them with the risk that it would fall into the Taliban's hands eventually, or he could give it to them with the hope that they could deploy it in service of defending their country. Both of those options had risks. He had to choose. And he made a choice.”