The dust hasn’t settled in Afghanistan. The crisis that has erupted since Joe Biden decided to abandon Bagram Air Base and the rest of Afghanistan will continue long past his arbitrary August 31 deadline. After that, the people of that country will be subjected to pogroms the likes of which have not been seen since the Vietnam communists and the Khmer Rouge swept across southeast Asia, killing untold numbers along the way. A refugee crisis is already underway and will eventually become a major issue for Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and Europe. It’s no exaggeration to say that Biden has destabilized much of the world along with fracturing U.S. alliances across the board.
Afghanistan may well descend into a full civil war. ISIS, or ISIS-K, is now present in Afghanistan, and reportedly is a bitter enemy of the Taliban. There remain tribes and groups in that country resolutely opposed to Taliban rule. The main questions concerning them are whether they will continue to put up a fight, and how long can they last? They lasted 20 years while the NATO allies had troops in the country, and for years before that during the Taliban’s first rule. But the Taliban 2.0 control more territory than they did on 9-11 and have new aces to play.
Joe Biden has made the task of anyone who opposes the Taliban extremely difficult going forward. They will not have U.S. combat, intelligence, or advisory services at their backs. They will not have American airpower to call upon. Biden continually refers to “over-the-horizon” anti-terror capability, but that’s nearly non-existent and may dissolve further as America’s standing collapses. Those Afghan groups will also fight against a Taliban that has reportedly captured billions of dollars in American military hardware.
Thus far it hasn’t been possible to get a straight answer out of the Biden administration as to how much functional gear was left behind. That’s not likely to change at any point, though Congress can and must investigate if for no other reason than to determine the extent of the threat the Taliban can pose within and outside of Afghanistan. It could be one of the better-armed military forces in Central Asia, if not the world.
The Hill looked at just how much gear may be in play. Its findings are both eye-watering and extremely worrying.
Between 2003 and 2016, the United States transferred 75,898 vehicles, 599,690 weapons, 162,643 pieces of communications equipment, 208 aircraft, and 16,191 pieces of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment to Afghan forces, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report.
From 2017 to 2019, the United States also gave Afghan forces 7,035 machine guns, 4,702 Humvees, 20,040 hand grenades, 2,520 bombs and 1,394 grenade launchers, among other equipment, according to a report last year from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
As of June 30, Afghan forces had 211 U.S.-supplied aircraft in their inventory, a separate SIGAR report said.
At least 46 of those aircraft are now in Uzbekistan after more than 500 Afghan troops used them to flee as the government in Kabul collapsed over the weekend.
Some undetermined number of those aircraft will not function for long, not without aircraft maintenance crews. So expect the Taliban to contract with China for that work. Biden denied maintenance to the Afghan government, which is one reason it collapsed so quickly. It lacked air support, which was one of its key advantages over the Taliban, which up to now had no air force. As long as the Taliban looks the other way regarding China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it’s likely to get aircraft services from its new partner. Or Russia. They won’t be picky about it. So the Taliban has gained the aircraft to build up an air force. It may lack pilots for now, but Pakistan, China, or Russia may help train some.
Setting all of that aside, let’s assume maybe half of those vehicles were functional when Biden ordered the hasty and unprotected withdrawal of American forces. Assume the same for everything else, which is being very generous to Biden. There was a program to disable some of the weaponry and detonate some of the explosives before the withdrawal, but that could not have been an exhaustive enterprise. Certainly, none of the gear that had been given to the Afghan military was disabled, and much of that has been surrendered to the Taliban. No doubt much of all this gear is functional and is being used. We know this because the Taliban are appearing in propaganda videos using U.S. vehicles, uniforms, and weapons. They’re being seen in media reports doing the same. There’s no question that the Taliban are armed with the gear Biden left behind. According to Rep. Jim Banks, the gear goes well beyond guns and trucks.
Stunningly, Banks said the Taliban is now in possession of “more Black Hawk helicopters than 85 percent of the countries of the world.”
While the weapons are extremely concerning, Banks said the U.S. technology left behind will be devastating to the Afghan people in the hands of the Taliban.
“They have night vision goggles, body armor, and unbelievably, the Taliban now has biometric devices which have the fingerprints, eye scans and biographical information of all of the Afghans who helped us and were on our side over the last 20 years,” he explained.
The total value of the gear left behind may be around $85 billion. Let’s assume that just half of it is still functional. That’s still a massive infusion of arms and gear to the Taliban. The Biden administration can quibble over one thing — the Afghan Taliban is not technically designated as a terrorist group — but the Pakistani Taliban is.
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There is no question in most people’s minds what the Afghan Taliban is. It’s a brutal, extremist, repressive armed insurgency (at least) that never broke with al-Qaeda, and is now the ruling emirate government of Afghanistan. The Biden administration would be unwise to play word games over this, but unwise actions seem to be all they know how to take.
It can’t quibble with this: Joe Biden’s decision has led to vastly upgrading the Taliban’s arsenal, making him the world’s top arms supplier to them because he chose to leave American weapons behind (before choosing to leave Americans behind, which he is in the process of doing right now). He also donated a country to them, a country that more than 2,300 Americans died to keep out of their hands. No other country is donating more than $42 billion (about half of the $85 billion in gear reportedly left behind) in modern military gear to the Taliban or any other similar group. Most countries can’t even come close to affording that.
Biden has also armed the Taliban at the very same time he has thrown the border wide open and seeks to make it more difficult for law-abiding Americans to exercise our Second Amendment rights of self-defense.