The U.S. destroyed or 'demilitarized' all equipment left at Kabul airport, depriving the Taliban of more trophies

·2 min read

When the last U.S. military aircraft flew out of Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday, the only usable equipment left behind was machinery to help the airport return to civilian operation as soon as possible, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie said at a press conference. The rest of the equipment — 70 mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, 27 Humvees, 73 aircraft, an unspecified number of counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) systems — was destroyed or "demilitarized." These vehicles and weapons will "never be able to be operated by anyone again," McKenzie said.

"Troops likely used thermate grenades, which burn at temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, to destroy key components of the equipment," USA Today reports, citing a Pentagon official, while "some pieces of equipment were likely blown up" at the airport. "McKenzie stressed that the equipment would be of no use in combat," USA Today notes, "but they will likely be display by the Taliban as trophies of their decades-long fight to retake their country."

"The U.S. military removed planes, heavy weapons, and sophisticated military equipment as it began winding down its operations in Afghanistan in the spring," NPR reports. "But it couldn't take home 20 years of accumulated hardware and instead left much of it to the Afghan military" — and after the Afghan military collapsed over the summer, "the Taliban wasted no time in gloating over their new war booty," including billions of dollars in captured "aircraft, trucks, Humvees, artillery guns, and night-vision goggles."

The U.S.-supplied "rifles, plate carrier vests, and other infantry gear provide legitimate tactical value to the group's foot soldiers," The Washington Post reports, but "some of the captured equipment, like helicopters and attack planes, may be more useful for propaganda imagery than for everyday use." U.S. contractors maintained the Black Hawk helicopters, C-130 transport planes, and other aircraft that require expensive and hard-to-find parts, and the Taliban lacks the technical expertise to keep them airborne, even if they find pilots.

The Taliban were "significantly helpful" in enabling the U.S. and allied forces to airlift 122,000 people out of Kabul's airport in two weeks, McKenzie said, but they will have a hard time securing Kabul. When the Taliban swept through Afghanistan, freeing its fighters from prisons, it also swelled the ranks of ISIS-K to about 2,000 militants, he said. "Now they are going to be able to reap what they sowed."

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