Rajat Sharma

Does Taliban has access to the huge armoury of aircraft, drones, weapons of Afghan Army?

akb2711Today I want to share with you details of the huge quantity of arms and armaments that were lying with the Afghan army, and which could have fallen into the hands of Taliban. Those in India who have been praising Taliban for becoming “soft” and “modern”, show know that the new Taliban could become more dangerous, if it gains access to choppers, tanks, artillery, rifles and rocket propelled grenades which the US had given to the Afghan army.

The new Taliban fighter does not move on motorbikes carrying rifles. You may have seen visuals of Taliban fighters moving around in US made Humvees armed with the latest rifles.

According to media reports, after the Afghan army surrendered, the Taliban could have gained access to more than 2,000 armoured vehicles, including US Humvees, nearly 40 aircraft including UH-60 Black Hawks, A-29 Super Tucano scout attack helicopters and ScanEagle military drones.

From 2003 till 2016, the US provided Afghan army with 208 aircraft, out of which between 40 and 50 aircraft have been flown to Uzbekistan by Afghan pilots fleeing Taliban occupation force. US officials say that many of these helicopters are ultra-modern, which need constant maintenance and cannot be flown without proper training.

The Taliban may have gained access to the huge arsenal of the Afghan army, which consisted of M16A4 assault rifles and M240 medium machine guns. Taliban fighters have been proudly display some of these rifles while patrolling the streets of Afghan cities.

In the last two decades, nearly 83 billion US dollars were spent to raise and equip the Afghan army. According to the US Government Accountability Office (like our CAG), US supplied Afghan army with more than 75,000 vehicles, along with nearly six lakh weapons, 1,60,000 pieces of communication equipment, and more than 200 aircraft. Taliban may have gained access to most of these weapons and equipment.

The Taliban alredy had AK 47, AK 56 rifles and rocket propelled grenades, but after it occupied Afghanistan, it may have gained access to a large armoury left behind by the Afghan troops. These include M4 carbines and M16 assault rifles given by the US to the Afghan army.

Between April and July this year, the US handed over to the Afghan forces large consignments of weapons and armaments. These include nearly 10,000 explosive rockets, 61,000 explosive rounds of 40 mm each, nine lakh 0.5 calibre bullets, 21 lakh other ammunition pieces. These were given to Afghan forces to fight the Taliban, but now most of these weapons could have fallen into the hands of Taliban. The weapons include 60 mm, 82 mm and 120 mm mortars and 19 other type of weapons whose makers are not known. The Taliban also has more than 25,000 grenade launchers.

A few weeks ago, the US had given to the Afghan national defense and security force 174 high mobility multipurpose vehicles called Humvees in short. The Afghan army already had 303 Humvees, out of which 41 were destroyed by the Taliban in course of fighting. The Taliban may also have gained access to 256 Ford Rangers pickup trucks. We have seen visuals of Taliban fighters moving around in these pickup trucks proudly. There were 133 Navistar international modern series trucks and more than 20 M-117 armoured vehicles given by the US to the Afghan army. In all, there were more than one thousand armoured vehicles.

The Afghan army had more than 40 T-54 and T-62 series tanks given by China. The Taliban may have gained access to these tanks too, though it cannot be verified at this moment. Out of 60 high-grade military vehicles with the Afghan forces, nine were destroyed in fighting, and the remaining 51 were with Afghan troops. The US had given to the Afghan forces 20 MaxxPro MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles, designed by American company Navistar. These mine resistant armoured protected vehicles are designed to endure IED attacks and ambushes. These can withstand ballistic arms fire and mine blasts. The Taliban may also gain access to these mine protected vehicles.

In the Afghan army armoury, there were thirty five 132 mm howitzer guns, three 76 mm mountain division guns, and eight anti-aircraft guns. In all, there are 775 artillery pieces with the Taliban. India had given Mi-24 helicopters to the Afghan forces. Several of these helicopters now of no use after they were used by Afghan troops in the battle of Kunduz. Taliban fighters were seen posing before the rotors of these choppers. They had taken out most of the parts used in the choppers.

The former Afghan Air Force had 45 Black Hawk helicopters, 50 MD-530s and 56 Mi-17 helicopters. Before the fall of Kabul, the Afghan Air Force had C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, C-208 utility aircraft, and AC-208 fixed wing aircraft apart from Mi-35 helicopters, all worth thousands of crores of rupees. In all, the Afghan Air Force had 211 aircraft, out of which only 167 were operational till June 30. During the war, the Taliban destroyed 23 aircraft and seven choppers. It means, there are still 160 aircraft and choppers intact.

The Taliban is now desperately making appeals to all Afghan pilots who had fled abroad to return. They simply do not have well trained pilots to run the aircraft and choppers. I have information that many of the attack aircraft and helicopters are now safe in a base in Tajikistan.

Nobody had dreamt of the well-equipped Afghan army and air force surrendering to the Taliban so meekly. The Afghan forces had six American ScanEagle drones. This should be a cause for worry in the near future. ScanEagle drones can do recce, attack and return, and can fly for 24 hour non-stop, that too, at a speed of 150 kmph. Each ScanEagle drone costs 40 lakh US dollars (Rs 30 crore).

Taliban have captured 11 military bases located in Kandahar, Kabul, New Antonik, Camp Lincoln and other sites. The famous Bagram air base is now under Taliban control. If the Taliban gains access to these helicopters, attack aircraft and ScanEagle drones, it may soon launch a battle in Panjshir valley, which is now under control of Ahmed Masood and his forces. The Afghan army had 2,086 trucks, armoured vehicles and jeeps. Out of these, 106 were destroyed by the Taliban during battles. There were 1,980 trucks, vehicles and jeeps which the Taliban has access to. There were also six front skid loaders, two bulldozers, one excavator, and one airport construction equipment.

I have read some international reports which say the Taliban may have gained access to nearly Rs 2 lakh crore worth arms, weapons and ammunitions. I fail to understand why American strategists did not take the possibility of such a huge arsenal falling into Taliban hands, into account. If a radical outfit like Taliban gains access to a huge armoury, it could spell danger for the world.

Questions are being asked from the US President Joe Biden, why such a huge intelligence failure took place. Afghan war experts say, even the timing of withdrawal was wrong. April to October is the ‘fighting season’ in Afghanistan, and no army worth its salt can even think of a pull out during these months. During the harsh Afghan winter, the Taliban stay indoors and do not come into the open. It would have been difficult for the Taliban to capture such a huge armoury of aircraft, artillery, choppers and trucks during the winter.

The situation today is such that it is becoming difficult for the US troops to evacuate their citizens, with the Taliban keeping a hawk’s eye on their movement. Loss of such a huge armoury is not only a big failure for the US, but indirectly, a big strategic win for Russia, Iran and China. They will now seek an upper hand in Central Asia.

The common American is asking, if, after 20 years of occupation, the Americans had to return Afghanistan back to the Taliban, what was the point in sacrificing the lives of more than 2,500 American troops? What was the need for spending billions of dollars on weapons and equipment for the Afghan army? People the world over are today blaming American for the dance of death that is now taking place in Afghanistan.

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