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U.S. Left $7 Billion In Military Hardware In Afghanistan As Taliban Took Over, DOD Reportedly Finds

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Topline

The Department of Defense estimates $7.12 billion worth of military equipment purchased by the United States was left in Afghanistan following the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops that concluded August 30, according to a DOD report obtained by CNN Wednesday.

Key Facts

The equipment included aircraft, vehicles, weapons, ammunition and communications hardware that was given to the now-defunct U.S.-backed Afghan government, CNN said, citing a March report to Congress by the DOD that has not yet been made public.

The military does not intend to “retrieve or destroy” the hardware, though much of it requires special maintenance, CNN reported—a previous report by a DOD watchdog said many of the Afghan military’s planes won’t remain effective if U.S.-funded contractors disappear.

About 170 pieces of military equipment, including vehicles and aircraft, were also “demilitarized” by U.S. forces and rendered useless before the withdrawal, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie—the head of U.S. Central Command—told reporters in August.

The report’s release comes after Congress required the DOD to inform lawmakers about the fate of U.S. property in Afghanistan following the withdrawal.

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Big Number

$18.61 billion. That’s how much the U.S. appropriated to the former Afghan government for equipment and transportation for its security forces from 2005 to 2021, according to an October report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the U.S. military’s internal watchdog on the war in Afghanistan.

Key Background

In February 2020, U.S. and Taliban negotiators inked an agreement under which all U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, and President Joe Biden later revised this withdrawal deadline to August 31, which the Taliban later called a “red line.” In the leadup to the withdrawal, U.S. intelligence predicted the Afghan government would remain stable and a Taliban takeover would not occur rapidly, Biden said. However, while U.S. troops left Afghanistan last summer, the Taliban quickly assumed control of the country and Afghan security forces—whom the United States had supplied with funding and equipment for nearly two decades—rapidly disintegrated. As they returned to power following a 20-year war, Taliban fighters reportedly seized abandoned U.S weaponry including Black Hawk helicopters and A-29 Super Tucano light attack planes. Though the decision to withdraw troops was broadly popular, its execution was chaotic: Crowds of civilians swarmed Kabul’s international airport, hoping to escape the country before a Taliban takeover, and 13 U.S. troops were killed in an Islamic State suicide bombing.

Tangent

The Biden Administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal was unpopular among Democrats as well as Republicans. A Pew Research Center survey found only 27% of respondents thought the Biden Administration did a good or excellent job of handling the pullout. Some 43% of Democrats said they thought the administration handled the situation in Afghanistan well, compared to 7% of Republicans, Pew said.

Further Reading

“Most Americans Now Think U.S. Should’ve Kept Some Troops In Afghanistan — Despite Previously Backing War’s End” (Forbes)



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