While there is much to be disappointed about in terms of President Joe Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, one of the more distressing aspects has been scenes of Taliban fighters capturing large stockpiles of abandoned U.S. weaponry, from small arms like rifles and machine guns to heavier and more high-tech equipment like armored vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters, among other things.
Perhaps most infuriating of all is the Pentagon’s reported refusal to address whether any plans existed to prevent that from occurring or to retrieve those captured materials, as well as the White House’s concession that those materials are likely as good as gone forever.
Bear in mind that this is tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars worth of weapons and equipment now in the hands of the Taliban — some of which is quite advanced and sophisticated — that will now potentially be used against the U.S. and its allies, obtained by enemy nations to study and copy, or dispersed on the black market to terror hotspots and conflict zones around the globe.
No answer given
During a Pentagon press briefing Monday, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor was asked specifically if the U.S. military was taking any action to prevent any additional aircraft and military equipment or weapons from falling into the hands of the Taliban.
Taylor initially replied that he didn’t “have information” in that regard but would get back to the reporter, but when pressed on the matter — with a specific mention of destroying such equipment to prevent it from being captured, Taylor said, “I don’t have the answer to that question.”
His refusal to provide any sort of adequate response to a basic question — a simple confirmation that plans exist without getting into specifics would likely have sufficed — is absolutely unacceptable and further underscores the scandalous loss of tens of billions of dollars worth of small arms and advanced warfighting materials that had been provided to the Afghan National Security Forces.
The blame game
The topic was raised again Tuesday at a White House briefing, and though National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did provide a response of sorts, it was just as scandalously unacceptable.
Sullivan was asked why the Black Hawk helicopters and other equipment had been left behind for the Taliban to capture, either to use for their own purposes or to sell or trade to other nations and entities — a question that Sullivan chose to highlight as an example of the “tough decisions” that President Biden had to make.
“Those Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban. They were given to the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to defend themselves,” Sullivan replied, clearly implying that it was the fault of the Afghan military for not using the helicopters and other equipment and allowing them to fall under the control of the Taliban.
That is a gross mischaracterization of what occurred and a complete dodge of responsibility, as a Wall Street Journal article from just two weeks ago laid out in devastating detail how, due directly to Biden’s ordered withdrawal that included all U.S. maintenance contractors, the Afghan Air Force had essentially been grounded just prior to the Taliban offensive since the Afghan military was incapable of keeping the aircraft maintained on their own.
A “fair amount”
Back at the White House briefing, Sullivan was later asked if the U.S. had made any plans with regard to the captured equipment and weaponry, presumably to try and retrieve any of it or simply destroy it so nobody could use it.
“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” Sullivan said. “And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”