When Taliban fighters rode triumphantly into Kabul airport early Tuesday, they did so on U.S. pickup trucks, wearing American-made uniforms and brandishing American M4 and M16 rifles. They spent hours looking at the vast array of U.S. military equipment and weaponry that had been left behind by U.S. troops in Afghanistan ..
The group’s blindingly fast sweep through most of Afghanistan netted it billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. military equipment and weaponry given to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, which collapsed in the 11 days before the Taliban seized Kabul, the capital, on Aug. 15. Many of the military and political leaders fled Afghanistan after Afghan soldiers refused to surrender their uniforms and gear.
“This is ghanima,” said one uniformed Taliban fighter: war booty. He reached for his night-vision helmet and grabbed it with one hand. It looked exactly like an Afghan soldier that the U.S. tried to eradicate. He walked into a hangar, glancing at his U.S. Embassy helicopter squad mates.
For their effort, Taliban fighters reaped almost 2,000 Humvees and trucks; more than 50 armored fighting vehicles, including Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles, or MRAPs; scores of artillery and mortar pieces; more than a dozen aging but working helicopters and attack aircraft; a dozen tanks; seven Boeing-manufactured drones; and millions upon millions of bullets, according to a list compiled by the Oryx Blog, which tracks weapons used in conflicts. Many of these items were destroyed by U.S. troops, or were too dangerous for Taliban fighters to use. But a bitter result of the chaotic Western withdrawal from Afghanistan is that the very group the U.S. ousted 20 years ago is not only back in power but better equipped militarily than ever before to repel adversaries and enforce its brand of repressive rule.