A day after at least 13 U.S. soldiers were killed at the Kabul airport, it’s still unclear how many Americans will be abandoned in Afghanistan by the Biden administration. What we do know, though, is that most of the U.S. weaponry in the country will not be recovered. It’s as if Joe Biden himself was the military procurement chief for the Taliban.
Until Thursday, there had been no U.S. combat casualties in Afghanistan since February of last year. But a bloodbath that the entire world outside of the White House saw coming arrived, and it became the deadliest day in the country for American troops since 2011, when – yes, that’s right – Biden was vice president.
Homicide bombers and gunmen, reportedly from that brood of terrorist vipers called the Islamic State, killed at least 60 Afghans in addition to the American servicemen, and wounded more than 140. These horrific deaths and dismemberments are squarely on Biden, who rejected military leaders’ advice, has resorted to blaming the victims, and once again demonstrated that he has miserable, if not depraved, foreign-policy instincts.
Don’t bet Thursday’s deaths will be the last. The country is now a modern arms bazaar, overflowing with designed-to-kill equipment for the Taliban to use on Americans and anyone else they choose to murder, or sell to unsavory characters who want to massacre Westerners. Remaining in Afghanistan after the U.S. quits will be nearly 76,000 military vehicles, 208 American airplanes and helicopters, and almost 600,000 arms.
“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this week. “And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”
The list of equipment, provided by Open The Books, a nonprofit determined to force transparency on governments at all level, includes: combat vehicles, armored personnel carriers, Black Hawk helicopters, aircraft that can fire Hellfire and anti-tank missiles, drones, rifles, machine guns, bombs, hand grenades, grenade launchers, rocket-propelled weapons, mortars, and howitzers.
And, we might add, uniforms, which the Taliban have already used to taunt the U.S. by wearing them last month while acting out the famous, and treasured, shot of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima in World War II.
All told, the U.S. “provided an estimated $83 billion worth of training and equipment to Afghan security forces since 2001,” says Open The Books founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski.
At least this administration didn’t set up the Taliban with a navy and long-range bombers.
Even before the Biden Retreat, the Taliban had “a wealth of armaments,” says a January report from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. The military gear included “armored vehicles, night-vision devices, Western rifles, laser designators, and advanced optics.” We’ve also seen the Taliban firing rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, and missiles out of the back of trucks.
Though the Russians denied it, there have been reports of Moscow arming the Taliban over the years. Gen. John Nicholson, at one time commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, said three years ago “we’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and (they) said, ‘This was given by the Russians to the Taliban.’”
The Islamist regime in Iran has also likely armed the Taliban. In 2018, the Pentagon put weapons on display, and made note of the Iranian corporate logos on them, as well as “the unique nature of the designs of Iranian weaponry.” Among the arms were 107mm rockets known to have been used by the Taliban.
A more orderly and sane withdrawal would not only have cut the risk of terrorism, there would have been more time to properly dispose of the now-lost military hardware and keep it out of the hands of a terrorist group that has no conscience. What couldn’t be shipped out could be destroyed or disabled. But under Biden’s hasty surrender, there’s not been enough time.
Of course even with the war-making riches left behind by the administration, the Taliban still won’t have the military capabilities of the U.S., China, Russia, and many other nations. But add the weaponry the Taliban already had to the new goods it’s picking up only at the low, low cost of running America out of Afghanistan, mix in its newly burnished image as a conqueror that will help it recruit more radicals, and it’s a much more formidable force than it was just weeks ago.
Maybe Biden will regret his rush to do whatever is he thinks he’s been doing. But not likely. Far as we can tell, neither he nor Barack Obama has expressed remorse for trading U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was convicted of desertion for leaving his post in Afghanistan, for five Guantanamo detainees, one of whom became a Taliban commander after his release. We expect a similar indifference if Americans or allied soldiers or civilians are killed by U.S. weapons left in Afghanistan, or by any other means. The Taliban and the Islamic State aren’t the only parties in this sorry spectacle unfolding before us who have no conscience.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board