Likely billions of dollars of American weapons and vehicles are now in the hands of the Taliban extremist group after the collapse of the Afghan government and army, with numerous videos and photos surfacing online showing Taliban members seizing the equipment.
Photos have circulated of Taliban members holding American M-4 carbines and M-16 rifles rather than AK-47s or AKMs. Other images and videos showed the Taliban surrounding U.S. Black Hawk helicopters and A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft.
On Wednesday, several GOP senators demanded the Department of Defense (DOD) provide full accounting over the weapons and equipment that were captured by the Taliban, considered by several agencies as a terrorist organization.
“As we watched the images coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban retook the country, we were horrified to see U.S. equipment—including UH-60 Black Hawks—in the hands of the Taliban,” Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and two dozen other senators wrote to Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin this week.
“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the Republicans added. “Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Some experts said that the Taliban capture of U.S. hardware has more of a psychological impact—rather than a practical impact.
“When an armed group gets their hands on American-made weaponry, it’s sort of a status symbol. It’s a psychological win,” said Elias Yousif, deputy director of the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor, according to The Hill.
Yousif said the development is problematic for a number of reasons.
“Clearly, this is an indictment of the U.S. security cooperation enterprise broadly,” he added. “It really should raise a lot of concerns about what is the wider enterprise that is going on every single day, whether that’s in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia.”