Approximately $7 billion of military equipment the US transferred to the Afghan government over the course of 16 years was left behind in Afghanistan after the US completed its withdrawal from the country in August, according to a congressionally mandated report from the US Department of Defense viewed by CNN.
This equipment is now in a country that is controlled by the very enemy the US was trying to drive out over the past two decades: the Taliban. The Defense Department has no plans to return to Afghanistan to “retrieve or destroy” the equipment, reads the report, which has been provided to Congress.
The US gave a total of $18.6 billion of equipment to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) from 2005 to August 2021, according to the report. Of that total, equipment worth $7.12 billion remained in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal was completed on August 30, 2021. It included aircraft, air-to-ground munitions, military vehicles, weapons, communications equipment and other materials, according to the DoD report.
The huge value of the hardware left behind will serve to refocus attention on the chaotic and hasty Afghanistan withdrawal that has been heavily criticized by lawmakers from both parties.
“Much of the remaining equipment” left in Afghanistan requires “specialized maintenance that DoD contractors previously provided” to Afghan forces “in the form of technical knowledge and support,” the report states.
The Department of Defense was required to submit a report to Congress “regarding the disposition of United States property, equipment and supplies provided to” Afghan forces that “were destroyed, taken out of” or “remain in Afghanistan,” states the report, which is dated March 2022.
“The $7.12 billion figure cited in the Department’s recent report to Congress corresponds to ANDSF equipment and not U.S. military equipment used by our forces,” Army Major Rob Lodewick, a Defense Department spokesperson, said in a statement. “Nearly all equipment used by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan was either retrograded or destroyed prior to our withdrawal and is not part of the ‘$7.12 billion’ figure cited in the report.”
From Afghanistan to Ukraine
The report also says that five Mi-17 helicopters that had been in Afghanistan were officially transferred to Ukraine in 2022, though they were already in Ukraine for maintenance before the US left Afghanistan. The Department of Defense notified Congress of its intent to transfer the helicopters in January 2022, before Russia’s invasion of the country had begun, and Ukraine signed a letter of acceptance on March 11, 2022.
“These five helicopters were in Ukraine undergoing overhaul maintenance when the Afghan government collapsed, and have remained there since,” the report states.
Of other materials the US had previously procured for Afghanistan but not sent to the country, the US has given some “non-standard munitions” to Ukraine, including about 37,000 122mm howitzer rounds, the report states.
The US has also transferred over 15 million rounds of Ball rifle ammunition, over 99,000 40mm high-explosive/fragmentation grenade cartridges, and about 119,000 82mm high-explosive mortar rounds to Ukraine from material that was previously procured for Afghanistan, the report states.
These munitions have been transferred to Ukraine under presidential drawdown authority, the report states.
US military equipment and weapons left behind
Aircraft worth $923.3 million remained in Afghanistan. The US left 78 aircraft procured for the government of Afghanistan at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul before the end of the withdrawal. These aircraft were demilitarized and rendered inoperable before the US military left, the report states. The US military conducted its non-combatant evacuation from Afghanistan in August, primarily through that airport.
A total of 9,524 air-to-ground munitions, valued at $6.54 million, remained in Afghanistan at the conclusion of the US military withdrawal. The “significant majority” of the “remaining aircraft munitions stock are non-precision munitions,” the report states.
Over 40,000 of the total 96,000 military vehicles the US gave to Afghan forces remained in Afghanistan at the time of the US withdrawal, including 12,000 military Humvees, the report states. “The operational condition of the remaining vehicles” in Afghanistan is “unknown,” the report states.
More than 300,000 of the total 427,300 weapons the US gave to Afghan forces remained in Afghanistan at the time of the US military withdrawal, according to the report. Less than 1,537,000 of the “specialty munitions” and “common small arms ammunition,” valued at a total of $48 million, are still in the country, the report states.
“Nearly all” of the communications equipment that the US gave to Afghan forces, including base-station, mobile, man-portable and hand-held commercial and military radio systems, and associated transmitters and encryption devices also remained in Afghanistan at the time of the withdrawal, the report states.
“Nearly all” night vision, surveillance, “biometric and positioning equipment” totaling nearly 42,000 pieces of specialized equipment remained in the country, the report adds.
And “nearly all,” of the explosive ordinance disposal and demining equipment, including 17,500 “pieces of explosive detection, electronic countermeasure, disposal and personal protective equipment” also remained in Afghanistan, according to the report.