A top Pentagon official admitted Monday that he had no information about any plans to keep American weapons, vehicles, aircraft and other war materiel out of the hands of the Taliban as the Islamic fundamentalists consolidated control over Afghanistan.
Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, a logistics specialist on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by an unidentified reporter whether the US was “taking any sort of steps to prevent aircraft or other military equipment from falling into the hands of the Taliban.”
After Taylor admitted that “I don’t have information” about such steps, he was asked: “So no US action is being taken to prevent equipment from falling into the hands of the Taliban, by destroying it or anything else?”
“I don’t have the answer to that question,” Taylor responded.
Since the Taliban began its final sweep across Afghanistan, it has released propaganda videos of its fighters celebrating the seizure of American-supplied Humvees, tanks and assault weapons from Afghan security forces.
Last month, for example, a Taliban commander told Sky News that his men had captured a cache of supplies, including 70 sniper rifles, 900 guns, 30 Humvees, 20 pickup trucks and 15 armored vehicles. The same report described the militants taking possession of a shipping container full of satellite phones, grenades and mortars, with many bearing labels saying: “Property of the USA Government.”
Over the weekend, the Taliban released footage showing off captured US-made Afghan military helicopters at the airport in Kandahar.
Though the Taliban are not known to possess the pilots or technical personnel needed to fly sophisticated aircraft, the images represented additional embarrassment for the US and its NATO allies.
On Monday, the Associated Press reported, citing a US defense official, that the Taliban had accumulated an “enormous” amount of Washington-supplied equipment meant for the Afghan armies, which largely melted away before the Islamist advance.
The Afghanistan force-building exercise was so completely dependent on American largesse that the Pentagon even paid the Afghan troops’ salaries. Too often that money, and untold amounts of fuel, were siphoned off by corrupt officers and government overseers who cooked the books, creating “ghost soldiers” to keep the misspent dollars coming.
Of the approximately $145 billion the US government spent trying to rebuild Afghanistan, about $83 billion went to developing and sustaining its army and police forces, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a congressionally created watchdog that has tracked the war since 2008. The $145 billion is in addition to $837 billion the United States spent fighting the war since October 2001.
“Money can’t buy will,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby conceded Monday. “You cannot purchase leadership.”
With Post wires
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