At this time there are no definitive numbers, according to an official, the current intelligence assessment is that the Taliban are believed to now control more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Blackhawks, Scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones.
With the U.S. withdrawal more or less forcing a retreat by Afghan forces, thus allowing any weapons and equipment left behind to be taken over by the Taliban. In fact, there were videos showing the advancing insurgents inspecting long lines of vehicles and opening crates of new firearms, communications gear and even military drones.
Aircraft like the Blackhawk helicopters have been the most visible sign of U.S. military assistance, and were supposed to be the biggest advantage of the Afghan military over the Taliban. For more than a week now, many of those aircraft were most useful for Afghan pilots to escape the Taliban.
One of the U.S. officials said that between 40 and 50 aircraft had been flown to Uzbekistan by Afghan pilots seeking refuge. Even before taking power in Kabul the Taliban had started a campaign of assassinating pilots.
“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters. Current and former U.S. officials say there is concern those weapons could be used to kill civilians, be seized by other militant groups such as Islamic State to attack U.S. interest in the region, or even potentially be handed over to adversaries including China and Russia.
“We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces. This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, reportedly told Reuters in an email.
There were reports that President Joe Biden’s administration is so concerned about the weapons that it is considering a number of options to pursue the recovery or destruction of the left behind weaponry. Officials said launching airstrikes against the larger equipment, such as helicopters, has not been ruled out, but that their main goal at this time is evacuating people, and are concerned it would antagonize the Taliban, causing evacuation problems.
Retired U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who oversaw U.S. military operations in Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command from 2016 to 2019, said most of the high-end hardware captured by the Taliban, including the aircraft, was not equipped with sensitive U.S. technology. “In some case, some of these will be more like trophies,” Votel said.
I sure hope Votel is correct. I don’t know about you, but I don’t cherish all the work done and taxes I have paid being spent on trophies for the Taliban.