Over the past few weeks, the Taliban has upgraded from your standard-issue insurgent Toyota pickup trucks to military-grade Humvees. And armored personnel carriers. And Black Hawk helicopters.
How long they can keep these all going without trained maintenance and parts support is anyone’s guess — but the point is that they have them and that the American taxpayer covered the cost.
Not that President Joe Biden wants you to know this. As the Taliban paraded the captured equipment through the streets of Kandahar on Wednesday, the Biden administration was busy scrubbing public records of how much we paid for it.
According to Forbes, federal agencies are wiping information about the $83 billion the U.S. invested in Afghanistan’s armed forces from their websites, ostensibly to protect our Afghan allies from retribution by the Taliban.
“The safety of our Afghan contacts is of utmost importance to us,” a State Department spokesperson said.
“The State Department advised other federal agencies … to review their web properties for content that highlights cooperation/participation between an Afghan citizen and the USG or a USG partner and remove from public view if it poses a security risk.”
Numbers from a 2017 Government Accountability Office report revealed that between 2003 and 2016, 208 aircraft and almost 76,000 vehicles were supplied to the Afghan military. Oh, and another 600,000 weapons.
In recent days, documents have been disappearing from the website of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a government watchdog.
“Some SIGAR reports have been temporarily removed from the agency’s public website due to ongoing security concerns in accordance with guidance received from the U.S. Department of State,” a SIGAR spokesperson told Forbes.
“This is in line with actions taken by other U.S. federal agencies and is out of an abundance of caution.”
This “abundance of caution” is sure felicitous for an administration that doesn’t want lasting reminders of how much military equipment was left behind for terrorists when we scooted out of Afghanistan.
As Forbes’ Adam Andrzejewski noted, “the scrubbed audits and reports included detailed accounting of what the U.S. had provided to Afghan forces, down to the number of night vision devices, hand grenades, Black Hawk helicopters, and armored vehicles.”
He also pointed out that “many of the removed audit reports merely quantified military equipment without identifying personnel.”
These included the 2017 GAO audit of the military equipment in Afghanistan and a SIGAR audit which reported $174 million in drones.
On Wednesday, we got to see some of that equipment during a Taliban victory parade in Kandahar.
“The Taliban displays captured US military vehicles during victory parade in Kandahar today.”
Well thank god they aren’t hanging anyone. https://t.co/WNRyD19a2u
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) September 1, 2021
The Taliban held a ‘Victory Parade’ with U.S. military equipment, and in full U.S. military uniform.
Joe Biden’s incompetence knows no bounds. pic.twitter.com/hsXqgKThii
— Errol Webber (@ErrolWebber) September 1, 2021
— New York Post (@nypost) September 1, 2021
This even included a flyover by a Black Hawk helicopter:
“Taliban helicopters also flew over the victory parade in Kandahar today.”
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) September 1, 2021
According to the New York Post, Afghanistan’s air force had 167 aircraft in operation in June. Of those, 22 planes and 24 helicopters were evacuated to Uzbekistan by Afghan soldiers before Kabul fell. That means 121 aircraft could be in Taliban hands, although that number is likely lower.
As the Daily Mail noted, U.S. Central Command head Gen. Frank McKenzie said 73 of the aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport were “demilitarized” — essentially destroyed — before U.S. forces left.
“Those aircraft will never fly again. … They’ll never be able to be operated by anyone,” he said. “Most of them are non-mission capable, to begin with. But certainly, they’ll never be able to be flown again.”
Rest easy, America.
While U.S. military officials have insisted the other equipment they abandoned in Afghanistan — which included a C-RAM rocket defense system, 27 Humvees and 70 blast-proof vehicles — was deactivated before our exit, it’s unclear how much, if any, of the other Afghan military equipment underwent the same treatment.
Forbes’ Andrzejewski noted that protecting our Afghan allies didn’t seem to be the aim of the Biden administration’s website scrubbing.
“This directive doesn’t seem to be designed to protect our Afghan allies — or, if it is, it’s been poorly executed. One U.S. entity that we will not name has failed to remove a report detailing the Afghan forces by rank. That report, one could argue, could be used as a tally sheet for retribution, but it’s still publicly available,” he wrote.
“Here’s another example. One federal report did not include personnel info, but it did include the face of an Afghan pilot sitting in a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter. When we highlighted the report, we flagged the photo to an agency spokesman and chose not to post a link to protect the pilot’s safety. The report has remained online, but since we contacted the spokesman, the photo has been removed.”
Another example of curiously timed removal: Andrzejewski said the 2017 GAO audit was pulled down hours after Forbes and the Sinclair Broadcast Group reported on its contents.
In the very best light, one could say the Biden administration is scrubbing evidence of its failure at the same time it’s scrubbing the identities of our Afghan allies. But it certainly seems to be more about the former than the latter.
Like it or not, however, it doesn’t matter how much the administration tries to burn $83 billion in receipts when the Taliban is parading the equipment that money bought through the streets — and skies — of Kandahar.
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