According to an independent watchdog’s report, American forces left behind billions of dollars worth of weapons, vehicles, and equipment during their operations in Afghanistan. The report also revealed that the Taliban has learned how to use some of the equipment, including aircraft.
On Tuesday, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), released a report detailing the U.S. military’s failures in Afghanistan over the course of the 20-year war. The report included reasons for the rapid collapse of Afghan government forces when the U.S. withdrew in 2021 and revealed that approximately $7.2 billion worth of American military equipment was abandoned in Afghanistan. Additionally, the report highlighted that the Taliban has learned how to use some of the left-behind equipment, including aircraft, posing a significant risk to U.S. security interests.
The left-behind equipment comprises 78 aircraft valued at over $920 million, 40,000 vehicles, more than 300,000 weapons, and numerous air-to-ground munitions.
Sopko commented, “Some of [the equipment] was destroyed, a lot of it wasn’t. Was I surprised? No. [The Pentagon] had a horrible system in place to keep track of weapons and where they were and how they were maintained.”
John Sopko, who has been serving as SIGAR since 2012, noted that the equipment abandoned by the U.S. military in Afghanistan was vast in quantity and included advanced technology, such as night vision and communication devices. Sopko warned that some of this “sophisticated” equipment is likely to have fallen into the hands of Taliban fighters who could now have learned how to operate it.
“That’s a concern. We have seen, and we have picked up intelligence that the Taliban are flying some of the helicopters and some of the planes,” Sopko added. “That’s a lot of hardware and a lot of weaponry.”
The SIGAR report will likely intensify scrutiny of the U.S. government’s failure to prevent the Taliban from gaining access to the military hardware.
According to the report, the Pentagon informed SIGAR investigators that it is currently impossible to recover the equipment left behind in Afghanistan, as the US does not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government.
The report comes as the House Foreign Affairs Committee prepares for its first public hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal, scheduled for Wednesday. Committee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) has accused the Biden administration of obstructing the committee’s attempts to access documents that could shed light on the administration’s botched management of the withdrawal.
Today as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will be participating in the first GOP-led hearing to examine the Biden Administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. We will determine how this failure happened and will hold those responsible accountable.
— Rep. Keith Self (@RepKeithSelf) March 8, 2023
Another recent allegation of bribery casts an even darker shadow on the events surrounding the collapse of Afghanistan. According to Fox News, an Italian news organization reports Afghanistan’s former president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, was paid $110 million not to resist the Taliban.