Aug 17, 2021 - World

Taliban accumulate massive amounts of U.S.-supplied firepower

Taliban standing alongside Afghan security force equipment

Taliban fighters stand beside the belongings of Afghan security soldiers in Kabul on Monday. Photo: Str/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Taliban accumulated an enormous amount of U.S.-supplied guns, ammunition, helicopters, combat aircraft and more after Afghan security forces collapsed this weekend, AP reports.

Why it matters: The U.S. spent billions of dollars over two decades to train and support the Afghan security forces, but the Taliban was the ultimate beneficiary of the decades-long investments.

  • Asked Monday if the U.S. is taking any steps to ensure military equipment does not fall into the hands of the Taliban, Pentagon logistics specialist Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor told reporters: "I don't have the answer to that question."

Driving the news: The Taliban captured modern military equipment when they overran Afghan forces across the country.

  • The Taliban accumulated firepower — including guns, ammunition and helicopters — from district centers.
  • They experienced bigger gains, including acquiring combat aircraft, when they toppled provincial capitals and military bases.

What they're saying: The Afghan army and police force were equipped with arms, but Biden officials — including the president himself — say they lacked combat motivation.

  • "Money can’t buy will. You cannot purchase leadership," John Kirby, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said Monday.
  • "The principle of war stands — moral factors dominate material factors," Doug Lute, a retired Army lieutenant general who help direct Afghan war strategy during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, told AP.
  • "Morale, discipline, leadership, unit cohesion are more decisive than numbers of forces and equipment. As outsiders in Afghanistan, we can provide material, but only Afghans can provide the intangible moral factors," Lute said.

By the numbers: The U.S. spent approximately $145 billion on trying to rebuild Afghanistan, per AP.

  • About $83 billion of the total went to developing and sustaining Afghanistan's army and police forces, according to AP.

Go deeper: Kabul's collapse

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