In my 20+ years as a writer and reporter, my role has never necessitated sharing my opinions on political or social issues, and I’m not looking to start now. I have, however, covered a fare number of stories involving questionable inventory management practices and confusing government asset allocation.
So, with that in mind, let’s discuss a recent report from the Pentagon’s lead inspector general for the final military operations in Afghanistan.
The exit, which was concluded in August 2021, was seen as, well, abrupt by many. And while there has been a great deal of dialogue surrounding the timing and nature of this departure, one aspect that went somewhat underreported was the volume of vehicles, equipment and munitions that were left behind.
Over the final 15 years of the conflict, the U.S. supported the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, the entity that would collapse after U.S. forces left and the Taliban took control, to the tune of over $18 billion in weapons, munitions and equipment.
And according to the Pentagon’s report, more than one-third of this total was still in the inventory of the ANDSF when U.S. troops left – meaning it now belongs to the Taliban. I’ll save you the math, that total is over $7 billion dollars and comprises an impressive inventory.
According to the report, this includes military aircraft valued at over $923 million, and over $294 million in supporting munitions.
The motor pool is also well-stocked with over $4 billion in vehicles, including Humvees, the heavily armored MRAP or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, as well as many others.
The Taliban’s armory will also be well stocked, with an estimated 316,000 rifles, pistols, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, as well as 224 howitzers – all valued at about $512 million.
The remainder of the newly-appropriated assets include night vision devices and other surveillance equipment, as well as miscellaneous “ancillary” gear. My best guess says there’s a lot of gas masks, water tanks and radios that never left the dessert.
If it helps you sleep a little better, the inspector general reported that many of the vehicles and weapons systems were “demilitarized and rendered inoperable during the evacuation.” Furthermore, many of the more advanced pieces of equipment shouldn’t pose a threat due to the Taliban’s lack of spare parts and training on how to use them.