The United States has lost huge amounts of military materiel to the Taliban. Photo: STRINGER / Agence EFE

As if it wasn’t enough for the Taliban to take full control of Afghanistan: impose its will and murderous tactics on innocent citizens; endanger the Americans still present in the country; and complicate efforts to extract Afghans who have provided significant support, such as translators; the situation is getting worse.

The Taliban also seized tens of billions of dollars in military equipment and supplies, which were previously under the control of Afghan security forces.

Over $ 28 billion was spent on equipping Afghans between 2002 and 2017. Spending thereafter is harder to come by, but as deliveries continued over the past month, it can be assumed that the total amount is much more. raised.

In fact, the Taliban have essentially captured all the elements necessary to fully equip an army and an air force, covering the range of 600,000 rifles and machine guns; 76,000 vehicles, including high mobility multifunctional vehicles, armored trucks and vans; radios, night vision equipment and drones; and 208 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

Equally important are the quantities of supplies she acquired in the process: millions of rounds of ammunition, spare parts, grenades, uniforms, boots, meals, fuel, and rockets – enough for support the Taliban’s military efforts for years.

While some worry about the Taliban’s use of an abandoned plane, John Venable, senior defense member for the Heritage Foundation, recently explained that this shouldn’t be a major concern.

About 25% of the Afghan air force traveled to neighboring countries, taken by fleeing Afghan pilots. The fate of these planes is uncertain. “For the left-behind plane,” said Venable, “the lack of spare parts, support and contracted maintenance means few flight options.”

The same reasons that crippled the Afghan Air Force when the Biden government removed all personnel who maintained these planes will also leave the Taliban struggling to perform some flights. And that assumes that there are trained pilots.

The United States doesn’t even really need to worry about capturing this equipment, fearing it might reveal US military secrets. No advanced technology was captured, such as the F-35 fighter jets or the Patriot missile systems.

What the Taliban got was basic equipment – but better than they already had – in enormous quantities.

There are many photos of Taliban fighters now holding the latest US military small arms, such as the M4 rifle or the M16A4 rifle.

These are weapons far superior to the AK-47s they previously owned, many of which dated back to the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The reported capture of 16,000 night vision devices is also of concern, allowing Taliban fighters to operate at night, negating the normal advantage of US forces to operate during hours of darkness.

There has been speculation that the United States may try to destroy at least some of the high-value equipment left behind, such as helicopters or attack planes. However, given the government’s half-hearted response so far, as the situation evolves, this seems unlikely.

Not that it can’t – the UK, for example, has sent 300 elite troops to Kabul to evacuate its citizens, while US forces remain caged at the city’s airport.

Even though the Taliban and other adversaries are not uncovering any secrets about the equipment, the seizure means it is a much better equipped combat force than it was two months ago.

If the United States or any other nation attempted to conduct military operations against them in the future, they would face modern equipment in a firefight, a prospect that no soldier appreciates.

There is also the grim prospect that the Taliban could sell or transfer some of this equipment to transnational terrorist groups, such as ISIS or al-Qaeda, who could use it against citizens of the United States or partner countries.

Once the Taliban started advancing across the country, it was too late to do anything to protect this equipment. It has been found in hundreds of Afghan military units, depots and warehouses across the country.

In fact, the odds were cast when the decision was made to hastily withdraw all U.S. military forces and sign a support contract with the Afghan military – support that previously admitted that its Air Force and the Afghan soldiers realized that no help would come from Kabul.

US President Joe Biden ignored human nature when he predicted that it was “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would invade everything. Regarding the war, Napoleon once said: “Morale is physically like three to one”.

That is, although there were supposedly over 300,000 members of the Afghan security forces, without morality or confidence, these numbers made no sense in the face of a determined enemy.

When the officials who kept the Afghan planes in the air and the small but significant presence of US forces were abruptly withdrawn, it created a crisis of confidence that spread like wildfire.

And now, with this massive transfer of military equipment, the Taliban will be a more capable force for years to come. It didn’t have to happen.

Thomas W. Spoehr, a retired army lieutenant general, is director of the Heritage Foundation’s National Defense Center.

© 2021 The Daily Signal. Posted with permission. Original in English.