by Priya Yadav
A US government report indicated this week that the Afghan army was made up of “ghost soldiers” who did not exist while the ramped up numbers were used to inflate the salary bill and siphon off millions of dollars annually. It slams the US government for harbouring “unrealistic goals and timelines”.
A group of 25 Republican senators have written a letter to US Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd, demanding that the Biden Administration account for taxpayer-funded American military equipment that has now been seized by the Taliban. The insurgent group is ready to declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan after capturing most of the country, including its capital Kabul.
“As we watched the images coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban retook the country, we were horrified to see US equipment – including UH-60 Black Hawks – in the hands of the Taliban,” the group of Republican senators wrote.
Reports have poured in from the war torn country on how the terror group has captured not just arms and ammunition stocked by the US troops but also helicopters and heavy armoured vehicles.
— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) August 19, 2021
“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by US taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies. Securing US assets should have been among the top priorities for the US Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” the senators wrote.
The letter, which has been signed by Senators Bill Cassidy, Marco Rubio and 23 other Republicans, has sought a full account of military equipment provided to the Afghan armed forces last year.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 18, 2021
The senators have also raised concerns over the possibility of the Taliban working with countries hostile to the US to use the highly advanced equipment.
The Taliban is believed to have taken hold of more than 2,000 armoured vehicles, including US Humvees, and about 40 aircraft including UH-60 Black Hawks, ScanEagle Military Drones and attack helicopters.
“An assessment of the likelihood that the Taliban will seek to work with Russia, Pakistan, Iran, or the People’s Republic of China for training, fuel, or infrastructure necessary to utilise the equipment they do not have the capabilities to use on their own,” the US lawmakers wrote in the letter to US Defense Secretary Lloyd.
The letter has come days after a damning report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the leading US government audit authority, on how wasteful expenses were incurred by the US in Afghanistan.
On 16 August, SIGAR John Sopko released a bombshell 140-page report titled “What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction,” concluding that the US government consistently underestimated the time needed to rebuild the country.
U.S. govt consistently underestimated amount of time required to rebuild #Afghanistan and created unrealistic timelines & expectations that prioritized spending quickly. These choices increased corruption & reduced effectiveness of programshttps://t.co/BDoVm7homo
— SIGAR (@SIGARHQ) August 19, 2021
“If the goal was to rebuild and leave behind a country that can sustain itself and pose little threat to U.S. national security interests, the overall picture is bleak,” the report’s conclusion reads.
Afghanistan plunged into uncertainty after Biden announced in the spring that the thousands of US troops present in the country for the past 20 years would leave by 31 August. Subsequently, the Taliban launched a major offensive against the Afghan forces, capturing large parts of the nation, and finally seizing its capital Kabul on 15 August.
The country is witnessing chaotic scenes in the wake of Taliban’s seizure of power; President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on 15 August only to emerge a few days later in the UAE, claiming to have left Afghanistan in order to prevent bloodshed.