Taliban Set to Capture Thousands of US Arms

Seized US Arms in Afghanistan, Human Rights and Arms Sales to Egypt, Arrest in Venezuela Arms Case and more



August 23, 2021

Taliban Set to Capture Thousands of US Arms

Security Assistance Monitor, August 2021

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. 

For more information on the seizure of US arms in Afghanistan, check out these recent articles

Security Assistance News & Research Roundup

News & Blog Post

Roll Call, August 16

U.S. military aid to Egypt, which amounts to $1.3 billion per year and is primarily provided in the form of Foreign Military Training, is a human rights test for President Biden, as the country is one “where U.S. security interests are less clearly involved.”

defenceWeb, August 16

The United States launched a second military Joint Combined Exchange Training program with Mozambique to help bolster the country’s armed forces and their capabilities on the battlefield. With this program, U.S. Special Operations Forces will train with more than 100 Mozambicans, as well as provide medical and communications equipment.

Reuters, August 17

U.S. lawmakers have announced an initiative to investigate the failures of the implementation and evaluation of U.S. security assistance in Afghanistan over the last 20 years following the Taliban’s takeover this past weekend.

Associated Press, August 18

The chief executive of U.S. company Achabal Technologies has been arrested on charges that he provided maintenance for Russian jets owned by the Venezuelan military. The firm violated U.S. arms control sanctions by selling Venezuela a critical suppressant foam that insulates fuel tanks to reduce the chance of explosions.

Billions in US weaponry seized by Taliban

The Hill, August 19

The Taliban have seized billions of dollars in U.S. weapons—including rifles, humvees, and ambush-protected vehicles—after the collapse of Afghanistan, giving the group “a propaganda boost and underscores the amount of wasted funds on U.S. military efforts” over the past 20 years.

Research, Analysis, and Opinion

America Failed Its Way to Counterterrorism Success

Foreign Affairs, August 12

In an article for Foreign Affairs, Hal Brands and Michael O’Hanlon write that despite the high costs and relentless quagmires, the U.S. has “achieved its strategic objective” in the War on Terror. Read their full argument at the link above.

Muhammadu Buhari: Africa needs more than US military aid to defeat terror

Financial Times, August 15

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari writes that, more than increased arms sales, “what Africa needs most from the US is a comprehensive partnership to close the disparity between our economic and demographic growth.” 

A tale of two armies: why Afghan forces proved no match for the Taliban

The Guardian, August 15

In his most recent article, Patrick Wintour writes that U.S. monitoring and evaluation procedures “failed to measure more intangible readiness factors such as leadership, corruption and motivation’” within the U.S.-trained Afghan Army.

Fragility in Tunisia: a Test Case for Integrated Security and Development Assistance

European Institute of the Mediterranean, August 19

Giovanni Faleg writes that Tunisia is a test case for international collaboration on a country’s security institutions. He argues that the absence of “an integrated security-development strategy may erode part of the country’s progress towards stability.” 


Data Fact of the Week:

Quantities and Examples of US arms Provided to Afghanistan, FY2003-FY2016

The graphic above illustrates the amount and types of arms provided to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces between FY2003-FY2016. 

With the Taliban takeover of the country, many have raised concerns about what their capture of US weaponry could mean for their own capabilities and regional arms proliferation. 

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