With the Taliban in nearly full control of Afghanistan, the fate of thousands of U.S. arms provided to the now defeated Afghan National Defense and Security Forces could remain an open question.
Over the past twenty years, the US has sent billions worth of arms to support the Afghan Army, Police, and Air Force. Between FY2003-FY2016 alone, the U.S. provided nearly 599K small arms, 75K military vehicles, 16K intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment, and 208 aircraft. But with the Taliban set now in control of the country, many have raised concerns about how access to U.S. weaponry could create new capabilities for the militants or contribute to the regional proliferation of arms.
Though much attention has been paid to the potential capture of aircraft by the Taliban and their possible development an air capability, the reality is that aircraft alone do not constitute an airforce. Even with the addition of pilots, fixed and rotary-wing aircraft require advanced maintenance, sustainment, and logistical support to function. Even after 20 years, the Afghan Air Force was still overwhelmingly dependent on the US for this kind of technical assistance to keep its planes in the sky.
Of more immediate concerns will be the small arms and ammunition. Though these weapons would not translate into a new capability for the Taliban, their illicit sale could contribute to a regional black-market arms bazaar, particularly if the Taliban find themselves strapped for cash amidst their international isolation.
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