The last US troops withdrew from Afghanistan on Monday, leaving behind an expensive stockpile of military equipment that was quickly claimed by a triumphant Taliban.
The group’s leaders, flanked by their elite Badri unit, crossed the tarmac at Kabul International Airport minutes after the departure of the last US Air Force C-17 transport plane.
The commandos came dressed in what appeared to be new camouflage uniforms and proudly posed for photos on the tarmac, as vehicles carrying the Taliban raced along the only runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport in the military side of the airfield.
Reports suggest that billions of military equipment has been left with the group. This includes seven CH-46 helicopters at the airport that the US State Department used in its evacuations before rendering them unusable.
Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, said troops disabled 27 Humvees and 73 planes so the Taliban could no longer use them.
He said troops failed to detonate equipment needed to possibly restart airport operations.
But White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has previously said the United States does not have a “full picture” of abandoned defense materials.
Many vehicles and weapons were functioning fully and are now in the hands of the Taliban.
Among the equipment left behind by departing Western troops were Special Forces military helmets with night vision goggle mounts, bulletproof vests, M4 and M-16 assault rifles, and sophisticated radio equipment.
Ford pickup trucks, mine-resistant vehicles, attack jets and dozens of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were also reportedly left behind in the rushed departure.
This would include nearly 500,000 assault weapons, more than 22,000 humvees and 42,000 SUVs, according to data from the US Government Accounting Office.
The Afghan Air Force also reportedly operated 167 ‘usable / in-country’ planes as of June, US-based Special Inspector General for Reconstruction of Afghanistan Quarterly Report .
This figure included 33 Black Hawks, three C-130 Hercules aircraft, 23 A-19 light attack aircraft, 33 AC-208 aircraft, 43 MD-530 helicopters and 32 Mi-17 helicopters. The “total stock” is even higher with a total of 211 aircraft, including 45 Black Hawk helicopters.
In addition, Taliban fighters are said to have obtained biometric devices that would allow the group to collect and store personal data and identify individuals more accurately.
The United States has spent at least $ 18 billion (£ 13 billion) since 2005 to help the Afghan army with “supplies and transport,” according to the report of the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of the United States. ‘Afghanistan. Billions more have been spent on maintenance and training.
Jim Banks, a Republican US congressman who served in Afghanistan, claimed last week that the Taliban had “more Black Hawk helicopters than 85% of the world” and said the group “now has access to $ 85 billion. [£61bn] value of military equipment ”.
An unverified video released on Monday claimed to show an American-made Black Hawk helicopter flying over the streets of Kandahar in southeastern Afghanistan.
“Our air force! Right now, Islamic Emirate Air Force helicopters are flying over the city of Kandahar and patrolling the city, ”said the Talib Times Twitter account, which claims to be responsible for“ official information ”for Kandahar. the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
It happened just days after another video showed Taliban rolling a captured Blackhawk helicopter at Kandahar airport.
“These Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban,” Sullivan said at a press conference. “They were handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to defend themselves at the President’s express request. [Ashraf] Ghani, who came to the Oval Office and asked for, among other things, additional air capacity. “
The Independent Gt