After capturing Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan in surprisingly lightning speeds, the Taliban is now the proud new owners of billions of dollars worth of American weaponry and defense equipment, including state-of-the-art arms and modern vehicles.
The Afghan war chest was the result of the 20 year occupation, during which U.S. forces trained and equipped the Afghan soldiers to defend the nation against insurgents. The $83 billion cost of such an effort went to waste when on Sunday, Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban.
Now, Reuters reports that not only has the Taliban taken control over most of Afghanistan, they've also gotten their hands on a range of U.S.-provided weapons and equipment that were supposed to support the Afghan forces once the American troops withdrew from Afghanistan. In fact, a video showed how advancing insurgents inspected rows of vehicles and opened crate upon crate of new firearms, communications gear, and military drones.
A U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that "Everything that hasn't been destroyed is the Taliban's now."
Many U.S. officials are concerned that these armaments could be used to attack civilians, taken by other militant groups and used to attack U.S. interests in the region, or even sold to adversaries such as China and Russia. The Biden administration is reportedly concerned over these U.S. armaments falling into the wrong hands, but are hesitating to launch airstrikes as it may spark an even larger conflict and put more innocent lives at risk.
An unnamed official said that while actual numbers have not yet been reported, current intelligence estimates that the Taliban have now acquired "more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones."
According to CBN News, Republican Representative Michael McCaul, of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee told Reuters in an email, "We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces. This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies."
Not only does these weapons in the hands of the Taliban pose a threat to the U.S., it will also cause some kind of a "regional arms bazaar." Flemish Peace Institute interim director Nils Duquet told Politico,
"What we are seeing now is these weapons, which have ended up in the hands of the Taliban, will probably circulate in the region for many decades to come. At the moment, they're very instrumental [because] if you want to control territory, you need small arms."
The Soufan Group director of policy and research Colin Clarke warned that it is "inevitable" that such U.S. armaments would "end up in the hands of al Qaeda and other bad actors," as he believes it won't "just end with the Taliban."