OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
As Taliban forces solidify their control over Afghanistan, the toll on American taxpayers is becoming even more pronounced, as is the national embarrassment of watching a third-world ‘army’ reverse decades of progress there, such as it was.
For most of the past 20 years, the U.S. has supplied and trained the Afghan National Army with American-made weapons, vehicles, and aircraft. But these forces melted away and abandoned their posts in the face of Taliban advances, leaving behind everything for the opposing force.
Between 2002 and 2017, the United States gave the Afghan military an estimated $28 billion in weaponry, including guns, rockets, night-vision goggles, and even small drones for intelligence gathering.
But aircraft like the Blackhawk helicopters have been the most visible sign of U.S. military assistance and were supposed to be the Afghan military’s biggest advantage over the Taliban.
Between 2003 and 2016 the United States provided Afghan forces with 208 aircraft, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In fact, the newswire added, the aircraft only advantaged the Afghan pilots who knew how to fly them; dozens used them to escape to neighboring countries.
“We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces,” Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the newswire.
“This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies,” the ranking Republican on the committee said.
Added an unnamed U.S. official: “Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now.”
“Since 2003 the United States has provided Afghan forces with at least 600,000 infantry weapons including M16 assault rifles, 162,000 pieces of communication equipment, and 16,000 night-vision goggle devices,” Reuters added.
A large cache of U.S. weapons was seized at a weapons depot in Herat by the Taliban. pic.twitter.com/4XknI20BKe
— Ian Miles Cheong @ stillgray.substack.com (@stillgray) August 18, 2021
Some former U.S. military officials downplayed the caches of weapons absorbed by the Taliban.
“In some cases, some of these will be more like trophies,” retired U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who previously lead U.S. Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan, told Reuters.
And according to another report by Fox News, what remains may not be useable for much longer: The Biden administration is considering airstrikes against equipment and vehicle depots to destroy what was left behind and render it useless for certain.
In a story that has since been taken offline, the network’s report linked to a Reuters report, which noted: “The officials said launching airstrikes against the larger equipment, such as helicopters, has not been ruled out, but there is concern that would antagonize the Taliban at a time the United States’ main goal is evacuating people.”
So even now, the Biden administration is finding itself boxed in because of a poorly executed withdrawal; the White House can’t order the equipment destroyed over a fear of ‘upsetting’ the Taliban at a time when the Taliban holds ground where Americans are trapped.
And yet, there are concerns that American weapons are going to be used against Aghan citizens (when, in fact, they probably already have been, given all the on-the-ground photos of Taliban fighters carrying American arms).
If this debacle was part of some grand scheme and intentional, a lot of people should be held accountable for it.
If this debacle was simply due to gross negligence and incompetence, Joe Biden needs to be held accountable for it.