A report by the United States Department of Defense concludes that approximately $7 billion in weapons, aircraft, and other military equipment was left in Afghanistan in the aftermath of Biden’s move to withdraw troops from the country.
$18.6 billion was the total bill on the equipment provided by the US to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) from 2005 until August 2021. Nearly half of that total, $7.12 billion, remained in Afghanistan after US personnel completed their withdrawal on August 30, 2021.
These equipment, which included aircraft, military vehicles, assorted weapons, air-to-ground munitions, and communication equipment, are now in the hands of the Taliban – the main enemy US forces spent two decades fighting with.
The report, dated March 2022, was part of the Department of Defense’s mandatory requirement to Congress “regarding the disposition of the United States property, equipment, and supplies provided” to the ANDSF “that were destroyed, or taken out of or remain in Afghanistan.”
The Pentagon says it has no intention to fly back to Afghanistan to “retrieve or destroy” the equipment it had left behind. It is possible that the administration is confident that the Taliban will not have access to the services required to maintain the equipment.
The report noted that most of the remaining equipment in Afghanistan requires “specialized maintenance that DoD contractors previously provided” to the ANDSF “in the form of technical knowledge and support.”
“The $7.12 billion figure cited in the Department’s recent report to Congress corresponds to ANDSF equipment and not U.S. military equipment used by our forces,” Defense Department spokesperson, Army Major Rob Lodewick said.
“Nearly all equipment used by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan was either retrograded or destroyed prior to our withdrawal and is not part of the ‘$7.12 billion’ figure cited in the report,” he clarified.
Biden’s Afghanistan Mishap
Nonetheless, $7 billion in military hardware essentially handed over to an enemy is bound to redirect attention back to the hasty and disorganized withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan.
The US and the Taliban successfully inked an agreement in 2020 that mandated all American troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. Biden pushed the withdrawal date to August of the same year, which was grudgingly accepted by the Taliban.
During the build-up to the withdrawal, intelligence cited by the Biden administration predicted that the country would remain stable and a Taliban takeover, although expected, would take a while to happen.
In the midst of this, the US State Department seemed to have made little preparation to remove tens of thousands of Afghans who we had pledged to get out of the country.
However, as US forces withdrew in 2021, the world was shocked at how swiftly the Taliban took control of the country and how easily the Afghan forces capitulated.
“The intelligence community did not say, back in June or July, that, in fact, this was going to collapse like it did,” Biden said in an old interview.
While the US military performed a near miracle in the resulting airlift out of Kabul, the evacuation is widely seen as a humiliating debacle of foreign policy and utter failure by the intelligence community
Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan pullout was unpopular among both Democrats and Republicans. A survey done by the Pew Research Center found that only 27% of people believe the Biden administration did an exemplary job in handling the withdrawal. It also found only 43% of Democrats and 6% of Republicans think the situation was handled properly.
SOFREP also reported last February that there were some 9,000 Americans abandoned by the Biden Administration during the pull-out. This number was determined by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which directly refutes the Biden administration’s previous estimates that around 100 to 200 Americans were left behind. Furthermore, 17,000 local Afghans who had been working with the US government for 20 years (thus making them eligible for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program) were also left behind.
Abandoned Weapons and Equipment
According to the report, 78 aircraft worth $923.3 million initially for the Afghan government was left at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. However, the report noted that the aircraft were stripped of their military capabilities and made inoperable. Yet within hours of the Taliban taking over the country, there were pictures and videos of aircraft and helicopters with Afghan air force markings being flown.
Approximately 40,000 military vehicles, including 12,000 Humvees provided by the U.S. to the ANDSF, were left during the withdrawal. According to the report, the operational status of the vehicles is “unknown.” However, a number of Humvees were seen to be driven by the Taliban as videos of it had surfaced on the internet.
U.S. forces left behind $6.54 million worth, or 9,524 air-to-ground munitions; 300,000 weapons intended for the ANDSF; and around 1,537,000 “common small arms ammunitions” and “specialty munitions” valued at around $48 million.
Most of the communications equipment, night vision and surveillance equipment, demining and explosive disposal tools, as well as “biometric and positioning equipment” also remain in Afghanistan, according to the report.