Taliban sympathizers are reportedly circulating images on social media of jihadists parading through the streets of the regional capital Qalat proudly displaying American weapons, the Emirati news agency Erem News revealed on Friday.
According to Erem, the Taliban was “showcasing” its special forces troops, dressed in white and waving the official flag of the jihadist organization. The video shows the terrorists wearing face coverings, apparently bulletproof vests, and large firearms that Erem suggested were of American origin. The event reportedly occurred on Thursday, Afghanistan’s Independence Day:
— إرم نيوز (@EremNews) August 20, 2021
Other images circulating on social media and allegedly originating on Taliban sympathizer social media networks show the scale of the parade, featuring at least dozens of the men wearing “special forces” outfits but hundreds of others in attendance:
— FJ (@Natsecjeff) August 19, 2021
Qalat is the regional capital of Zabul province. Taliban forces announced that they had captured the city on August 13, two days before marching into Kabul, the national capital.
Taliban forces began a national assault campaign to oust the U.S.-backed government of Afghanistan in April. While the group typically organizes an annual “spring offensive,” this year it made clear that it had returned to the battlefield with force because the United States, under the direction of President Joe Biden, had broken an agreement with the group to withdraw all its military forces by May 1. The deal, brokered by former President Donald Trump, required the Taliban not to attack American forces and to cut ties with al-Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.
Following Biden’s announcement that he would move the withdrawal to September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil that prompted the American invasion of Afghanistan – the Taliban went on a terror spree consisting of at least 22,000 attacks between April and July, according to the now-former Afghan government.
The campaign resulted in the Taliban reaching Kabul on Sunday and prompting former President Ashraf Ghani to abruptly flee the country. The Taliban announced the return of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” on Sunday night.
The Biden administration had recently moved up the final withdrawal date to August 31, speeding up America’s vacating of key military outposts. Among the most concerning to international observers was the Pentagon’s exit from Bagram Air Base in early July. American forces reportedly granted the Ghani government control of the airbase that month while leaving much of their equipment there. Shortly after the Americans’ departure, reports began surfacing of widespread looting of everything from stereos to mine-resistant military vehicles. As of last week, the Taliban had control of the airbase, greatly compromising the ability of both America and foreign allies to rescue citizens trapped in the country following the fall of Kabul.
The Taliban arrived in Kabul after a streak of largely bloodless successes, meaning members of Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), the Ghani administration’s military, surrendered without a fight. Many of the American weapons observers believe the Taliban is now in possession of came from those victories – Afghan soldiers handing over weapons funded by U.S. taxpayers.
Last week, Agence France-Presse (AFP) identified Kunduz, one of the last cities to fall, as a treasure trove of advanced American weaponry, surrendered to the Taliban after the city’s defeat. Among the weapons and other military equipment reportedly in Taliban hands now are humvees, artillery guns, and several aircraft. The latter will present the biggest problem for the Taliban, as it has never had an air force of its own and is not believed to have any pilots among its members at press time.
In a more extensive analysis of what the Taliban may now possess, Reuters on Thursday listed “more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones.”
“Between 2002 and 2017, the United States gave the Afghan military an estimated $28 billion in weaponry, including guns, rockets, night-vision goggles and even small drones for intelligence gathering,” Reuters reported.
“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” an anonymous “U.S. official” told Reuters. The agency added that it has reason to believe the Biden administration is considering airstrikes on its own equipment to prevent the Taliban from using it.
The weakness of the ANDSF has made Taliban control of American military gear a problem for years. Former Afghan government officials had warned Washington that it had been losing American-funded weapons at least as far back as 2016. That year, the Taliban successfully stole over 200 military vehicles from the Afghan military in Badakhshan province, a coup former Afghan spy chief Rahmatullah Nabi attributed to “incompetence.” The governor of Badakhshan confirmed the theft and demanded that the world and the government in Kabul help his regional officials retrieve the vehicles.