Rajat Sharma

Why US assault weapons are being sold in Pakistan as ‘spoils of loot’

rajat-sir As a fallout of Taliban takeover in Afghanistan last month, a large number US-made weapons and other ultra-modern accessories have now made their way to the markets of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Gujranwala in Pakistan. Shopkeepers in Pakistan have put boards outside their shops with “Ameriki Fauj Ka Maal-e-Ganimat” (war booty from US army) written on them.

Already, since the Eighties, when the US supplied huge quantity of weapons to Afghan Mujahideen based in Pakistan, Peshawar had become the capital of illegal weapon markets in the world. Now, these latest additions has led to thriving arms bazaars in the cities of Pakistan. These weapons, stolen and smuggled, have come from Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif, where the US army left behind huge quantities of weapons, modern equipment and accessories to the Afghan army, and these were later smuggled into Pakistan.

Pakistani shopkeepers admitted on camera that these were “loot ka maal”(spoils of loot) which Taliban had taken over, and “since Taliban are our brothers, every Pakistani feels pride on buying these goods”. Apart from M16 US rifles and M4 carbines (sold secretly), bulletproof jackets, night vision goggles, spycams, normal taser guns, taser sticks and accessories of assault weapons are being sold openly in shops.

In August, when Taliban was locked in fierce combat with Afghan army troops, the fighters had occupied much of the bordering Pak-Afghan areas and captured 30-35,000 containers belonging to US and NATO forces. These containers were sent back via Torkham and Chaman border points to Pakistan. Most of these containers had US troop uniforms, face masks and other accessories. Pakistani shopkeepers claimed they had Kalashnikov, M16 rifles and their accessories too. Pakistani TV reporters have been reporting for their news channels from these shops, wearing US army uniforms and holding air guns in hand.

These were US weapons and accessories described as “spoils of loot”, but what about the large number of aircraft and helicopters left by US army in Afghanistan? In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Thursday night, we showed how Taliban fighters tied ropes from one end of a jet engine fan to another fan of a US Super Tucano jet fighter, and swinging on them during leisure time. All systems on these US jet fighters have been disabled by American troops before leaving Kabul and they are unfit for use any more.

At least four US Super Tucano jet fighters, each costing Rs 2000 crore in international market, have been left behind by US army, disabled and unfit for use. There are 73 US aircrafts in Kabul alone, and most of them cannot be used anymore. One estimate says, more than 200 US aircraft and choppers have been left behind in Afghanistan.

Questions arise why US President Joe Biden took a hurried decision on troops withdrawal and opted to leave behind so many US aircraft and choppers which the American armed forces could have used elsewhere. What was the hurry? There are several hundreds US citizens still holed up in Afghanistan, unable to leave.

On Thursday, Taliban allowed the first Qatar Airlines chartered flight to carry 200 foreigners, including US citizens, green card holders, Germans, Hungarians and Canadians, from Kabul airport to Doha. There are still three chartered planes waiting in Mazar-e-Sharif to carry US visa holders from Afghanistan, but Taliban is yet to give permission.

Nobody imagined the US would be so timid in the face of Taliban’s aggression. The US, which had fought a 20-year-old war against Taliban, is now beseeching Taliban leaders with folded hands to allow its citizens to leave Afghanistan. None other than US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is telling the Taliban to fulfil its promise to allow safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan. The manner in which the US army practically fled Afghanistan leaving behind aircraft, choppers, tanks, armoured vehicles, huge number of assault weapons and other accessories is being noticed by the American people, who are taking their president Joe Biden to task.

Americans are angry with their intelligence agencies for having failed to estimate the capability of Taliban fighters, and the blitz that they undertook to occupy Afghanistan. The new Taliban, which the US policy makers had expected, would form an inclusive government, give respect to human rights and women’s equal rights, has bared its fangs now, if reports of beatings of journalists and women protesters are to be believed. All the hopes of American policy makers have now dashed to the ground.

The Taliban, true to its brutal nature, packed its all-male cabinet with dreaded terrorists carrying rewards on their head, ordered women not to come out on the streets to protest and remain in their homes, and directed colleges and universities to strictly adhere to gender segregation. One senior Taliban leader Syed Zekrullah Hashmi said on an Afghan TV show that women should restrict themselves to give birth to children only. He said, “women can’t be ministers. It is like you put some burden on her shoulders which she cannot carry.”

In another dictat, Taliban has issued orders that girls and women can no more take part in outdoor sports. Deputy Culture Minister Ahmedullah Wasiq said that all outdoor games for girls and women in Afghanistan have been prohibited. “By taking part in games, the body of woman gets exposed. Therefore, there is no need for girls to take part in sports”, Wasiq said.

Countries across the world have denounced this decision of Taliban government. Australian Cricket Board said that if women are disallowed from taking parts in sports, the board would call off its cricket series with Afghanistan. The board said, Afghan cricket team will not be allowed to play on Australian soil.

At the BRICS virtual summit on Thursday, leaders from India, Russia, South Africa, Brazil and China spoke on the situation in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for preventing terrorist outfits from using Afghanistan as a sanctuary for carrying out attacks on other countries. The New Delhi Declaration condemned the August 26 terror attack (by ISIS-K) outside Kabul airport, and called for “inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue” to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan. The summit also discussed “cross-border movement of terrorists”, terror financing networks and safe havens for terrorists.

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