A long the long, dusty roads that connect Afghanistan’s city of Mazar-e-Sharif, capital of Balkh province, to the country’s northern neighbor of Uzbekistan, I saw remnants of Afghan army uniforms, as well as beaten-down Humvees and armored personnel carriers. This was in the immediate aftermath of Balkh province’s fall to the Taliban in August, but within a week, such high-priced goods—courtesy of the United States taxpayer—were simply picked up after being abandoned and shuffled into the new regime’s burgeoning arsenal.
Indeed, members of the brutal outfit wasted no time in recovering the billions-of-dollars-worth of equipment left behind by the fleeing, defeated Afghan National Security Forces. Moreover, the Taliban foot soldiers were quick to start showing off the loot; many even took and sent selfies posing with their new American guns. In Kandahar—the symbolic birthplace of the Taliban—U.S.-funded military hardware was paraded through the streets.
And, according to news reports, in the rare cases a citizen possessed a firearm, the Taliban quickly stripped them of it. “It is terrifying,” one resident in the freshly fallen Kandahar city said to me from his home, which he had barely left for weeks on end. “We weren’t even allowed to buy a single small gun to defend ourselves. Now, this.”
The hard-line Islamic insurgency now has its hands on everything from guns and ammunition to night-vision equipment, helicopters and heavy weapons. It is all courtesy of Washington’s chaotic and hasty withdrawal from a country that was clearly unable to stand on its own feet despite reassurances from the Biden administration, decades of training Afghan military and police forces and gargantuan sums of money tossed its way.
Even more disconcerting is that the Taliban were able to seize and keep their U.S.-financed arms right under the nose of the Americans, with little being done to recapture or destroy the weapons that had tumbled into dangerous hands.
The U.S. military at least disabled some of its high-powered goods just prior to departing Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in one small attempt to make sure they didn’t add to the terrorist stockpile.
Meanwhile, law-abiding Americans must ask why the Biden administration did nothing to stop the Taliban—and the terrorists in their ranks—from getting actual “weapons of war,” even as Biden and anti-Second Amendment extremists are doing all they can to take ordinary semi-automatic rifles away from American citizens.
On the campaign trail, both President Joe Biden (D) and Vice President Kamala Harris (D) pledged to enact more onerous Second Amendment restrictions. Now, national security adviser Jake Sullivan has been forced to admit that the Taliban has recovered a “fair amount” of U.S.-provided military equipment and that they “don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone.”
“We don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport,” Sullivan said wearily, prior to the final evacuation of HKIA by American forces.
Intelligence estimates suggest that the Taliban now possesses thousands of armored vehicles and hundreds of aircraft, along with countless guns. Additionally, over the course of the war, the U.S. supplied the now-defunct Afghan forces with hundreds of thousands of small arms and millions of rounds of ammunition. One of the biggest reasons why the Taliban was able to capture key terrain so quickly toward the end of the Afghanistan fall was because they were able to scoop up and use the U.S. weapons.
Yet, the Biden administration doesn’t think Americans can be trusted with the freedom to protect themselves. Instead, Biden thinks American citizens should have to entirely rely on the government to protect them. In June, the Biden team asked the U.S. Senate to “ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” In stark contrast, no one on the Biden team seems too disturbed by the number of Afghans who will suffer at the receiving end of U.S.-issued weapons inside the beleaguered country.
It should also be stressed that whatever happens in Afghanistan does not stay in Afghanistan. And whatever the Taliban possesses now will not likely remain solely in their bloodied hands. The Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, is considered a branch of the Taliban, and has already been put in charge of running Kabul’s security. Kabul’s new leadership is also closely aligned to the few hundred al-Qaeda personnel still operating in Afghanistan.
Adding insult to injury are the disturbing ground reports and imagery indicating the moving of arms and machinery to Iran, where these weapons could be used against American interests in Iraq.
The region has a robust black market that is used by all sides of the equation; meaning that there is little doubt the weapons will be bought and sold to members of the even-more-brutal ISIS-K affiliate that also operates in the region. In addition, the Taliban is already showing signs of leadership struggles and internal power plays, multiple sources warn, which means that splinter terrorist groups, including elements even more hard-line and vicious than the Taliban, could pose additional international security threats in the weeks and months to come.
Chillingly, the Taliban may now be the first terrorist organization with an air force, and the Biden team is unwilling to do anything about it. Instead, they continue to go after the guns used by law-abiding American citizens to protect themselves and their loves ones.