US urged to ‘destroy weapons’ as Taliban build terrifying arsenal
There are mounting fears that thousands of vehicles and weapons will fall into the hands of the Taliban or Isis-K after the US’s withdrawal.
ByJamie Johnson, US CORRESPONDENT ;
Campbell MacDiarmid, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT
28 August 2021
The United States should launch air strikes to destroy billions of dollars worth of its own military equipment so that it cannot be used by the Taliban or Isis-K to attack coalition forces, a republican congressman has told The Telegraph.
Scott Franklin, who served in the US Navy for nearly three decades and now sits on the House Armed Services Committee said: “Groups like the Taliban having access to US weapons and equipment presents an incredible danger to Americans, our allies, and Afghan civilians.
“The US government’s goal should be to destroy as many of these weapons caches as possible via airstrikes, and annihilate any Taliban or Isis-K that get in the way.”
This week, it was claimed that the vast amount of hardware left behind by the US military is worth $85 billion and includes 75,000 vehicles, 200 airplanes and helicopters and 600,000 small arms and light weapons.
Other equipment seized by the Taliban includes night-vision goggles, body armour and medical supplies, according to Republican congressman Jim Banks, a former US Navy reservist.
“The Taliban now has more Black Hawk helicopters than 85 per cent of the countries in the world,” he said in a speech in Washington.
There are also significant fears that Afghans who worked with allied forces have been put at risk because biometric devices which have their fingerprints, eye scans and biographical information have also allegedly been left behind.
“From the day I started at the US Naval Academy to the day I retired, I was responsible for every single piece of equipment issued to me and those under my command,” said Mr Franklin.
“The idea that we would leave billions of dollars of weapons and equipment unaccounted for runs totally counter to good military order and discipline.
“To make matters worse, leaving weapons in the hands of a group like the Taliban puts lives at risk.”
Tom Tugenhadt, a former soldier and current chair of the foreign affairs committee said: “This begs so many questions. This is so unnecessary, so unforced. It’s a betrayal of so much and so many.”
Johnny Mercer, another former soldier who is now an MP added: “This will stop you in your tracks. Unbelievable.
“We gave them the names of those we trained to fight them. And some we will leave behind to the violence we see at the airport.”
Military analysts said while it was unclear how much military equipment the Taliban had acquired, it was less than what Mr Banks said.
“The Afghan army maintained no records so a lot of the figures going round are just tabulations of what was given to them” over the past two decades, said Jack Watling, a research fellow for land warfare at the British defence think tank RUSI.
“The Taliban will have everything that is on that list but not necessarily in the quantities being described,” he said. “In terms of volume, even the Afghan army had no idea how much of this stuff they had in store.”
The Afghan National army had no effective maintenance and logistics systems, meaning they had no way of tracking what equipment remained in service and what had been destroyed, lost, or sold.
A lack of maintenance meant that much of the advanced equipment was likely no longer functional, Mr Watling said. High levels of corruption meant that significant quantities of smaller equipment may have already been lost to the black market.
The greatest concern for Western militaries is likely to be the Taliban acquiring significant quantities of advanced rifle optics and thermal-imaging equipment.
Most Taliban fighters use iron sights on their rifles and lack night-vision capabilities, which until now have given Nato forces a significant battlefield advantage over the militants.
“They are why western militaries have been able to outshoot their enemies,” said Mr Watling. “That’s the biggest concern in terms of improvement in Taliban military effectiveness.”
Already, the Taliban say they have deployed an elite unit boasting high-tech equipment to guard sites in the Afghan capital.
The militants’ propaganda channels released a slick film of a unit called the “Badri 313 Brigade”, saying they would be on the streets of Kabul and guarding the presidential palace.
Slow motion footage showed them wearing modern helmets, sun glasses, body armour and carrying similar rifles to the Afghan forces.
There are also reports that the Taliban have acquired Black Hawk helicopters and Humvees.
“In terms of the helicopters, it doesn’t matter,” said Mr Watling. “They can’t maintain them so they can’t fly them – and they certainly can’t train pilots.”
Likewise with Humvees, without being able to easily access spare parts, most will soon fall into disrepair.
Other modern equipment including drones will likely face the same fate in the absence of maintenance.
Nor is there a concern of the loss of advanced technology to other military rivals, Mr Watling said. “The Afghan National Army don’t have sensitive stuff in their stockpile that we are worried about the Russian or Chinese getting hold of – they already have blueprints for US humvees.”
Of longer term concern is the possibility that the Taliban will distribute excess weaponry abroad.
“Al shabab getting hold of night vision goggles and thermal imaging and scopes in large numbers would increase the threat to Western forces there,” Mr Watling predicted, referring to the terrorist group active in East Africa.