Afghanistan: What Weapons And Kit May Have Been Left Behind?
The US no longer has boots on the ground in Afghanistan, but questions surround the level of weaponry left behind. Following the Taliban takeover last month, an evacuation mission has seen Western militaries fill cargo planes with Afghan civilians and Western nationals – hurried by attacks from third-party threats including ISIS-K. After the final US soldier has departed Kabul, the US Central Command chief said missile defence systems used against recent rocket attacks near the airport were among the kit left at the airfield.
The Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar systems (C-RAMs) had been “demilitarised”, according to General Kenneth McKenzie Jr.
“Up to 70” Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAPs) tactical vehicles were also left disabled alongside 27 Humvees, he said, while 73 aircraft left at Hamid Karzai International Airport “will never fly again”. UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace recently told LBC that British-owned kit may be left behind also, in order to maximise space offered to people on flights from Kabul. He said: “That’s the decision I made as Defence Secretary but it’s the right thing to do.”
Watch: Afghanistan: Who Are ISIS-K? Firepower potentially in the hands of the Taliban following their offensive may include the vast arsenal previously owned by Afghan troops. As of June 2021, the Afghan Air Force possessed 167 usable/in-country aircraft, according to a report by the US-based Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
This included 33 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and three C-130 military transport planes similar to those evacuating people from the country. National forces also possessed 32 Mi-17 and 43 MD-530 helicopters, 23 A-29 light attack planes and 23 C-208 aircraft.
A C-130 Hercules aircraft, similar to those handed to a now-defeated Afghan government (Picture: RAF).
The strength of the Afghan Security Forces has been a focus of the nation-building efforts from the West since it entered the country two decades ago. According to the US Government Accountability Office, between the fiscal years of 2003 and 2016 the US had funded almost 76,000 vehicles for the Afghan forces.
Almost 600,000 weapons, more than 16,000 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets and 208 aircraft were also funded during the same period.
Recent weeks have seen the national forces swiftly defeated as coalition troops finalised their withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to Military Balance 2021 data, the overrun Afghan forces had possessed 775 artillery vehicles. The Global Firepower Index 2021 indicated the national military had more than 1,000 armoured vehicles.
It is unclear, however, how much of the equipment mentioned above remained available for Taliban use today.
There are reports of some kit being moved, and other assets being destroyed as nations anticipated the fall of the country’s government.