About one month ago, the Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan posted photographs of seven brand new helicopters on social media that were arriving in Kabul from the U.S. military. Lloyd Austin, the United States Defense Secretary, told reporters some days later at the Pentagon that they will continue to see a steady drumbeat of that type of support going forward.
However, in some weeks, the Taliban took over most of Afghanistan and left behind weapons and equipment by fleeing Afghan forces. The video showed the advancing Taliban opening crates of new firearms and inspecting long lines of vehicles, military drones, and communications gear. One anonymous United States official told Reuters that everything that they or the Afghan forces not destroyed is under the custody of the Taliban.
Former and current United States officials say there is concern that the Taliban may use those weapons to kill Afghan civilians. Likewise, other militant groups like Islamic State seized them to attack United States interests in the region, or even possibly be handed over to rivals, including Russia and China. As a result, Joe Biden’s government has serious concerns about the weapons that it is considering several options to pursue.
Launching Airstrikes Against the Larger Equipment has not been Ruled Out
According to the U.S. officials, they didn’t rule out the launching of airstrikes against the larger equipment, such as helicopters, but there is concern that would provoke the insurgents when the U.S.’ key goal is evacuating people. Another official announced that while there are ultimate numbers yet, the present intelligence evaluation was that the Taliban believed to control over two thousand bulletproof vehicles, including United States Humvees, and over forty planes, possibly including UH-60 Black Hawks, ScanEagle military drones, and scout attack helicopters.
U.S. troops may stay in Afghanistan past an Aug. 31 deadline to evacuate Americans, Joe Biden said, and the Pentagon said the U.S. military does not currently have the ability to reach people beyond Kabul airport.
— Vudi Xhymshiti (@VudiXhymshiti) August 19, 2021
A Campaign of Assassinating Pilots
The pace with which the Taliban insurgents swept all over Afghanistan is reminiscent of Islamic State militants taking weapons from United States-provided Iraqi forces who offered small resistance in 2014. Whereas during 2002 to 2017, the U.S. gave the Afghan military a projected twenty-eight billion dollars in weaponry, including rockets, night-vision, guns, goggles, and even small drones for intelligence purposes.
However, aircraft such as Blackhawk helicopters are the most visible sign of the United States military and supposed to be the Afghan military’s largest advantage over the Taliban. According to the United States Government Accountability Office, between 2003 and 2016, the U.S. provided Afghan forces with two hundred and eight aircraft. Moreover, during the last few weeks, many of those planes were useful for Afghan pilots to evacuate from the country.
One of the American officials said that Afghan pilots flew around forty to fifty aircraft to Uzbekistan seeking refuge. Even before taking control of Kabul last weekend, the militant group began a campaign of assassinating Afghan pilots. On the other hand, some aircraft were in the U.S. for maintenance and now will stay there. While those aircraft delivered to Afghan forces will instead, the American military will use them to escape people safely from Kabul in the evacuation process.
Since 2003, the U.S. provided at least six hundred thousand infantry weapons such as 162000 pieces of communication equipment, M16 assault rifles, and sixteen thousand night-vision goggle devices to Afghan forces. One congressional aide told Reuters that the ability to operate goggles at night is a real game-changer.
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