Yes, the United States left behind an estimated $7 billion worth of military equipment in Afghanistan after the 2021 withdrawal. This includes weapons, vehicles, and other equipment that had been provided to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) over the course of the nearly 20-year war.
The decision to leave behind this equipment has generated criticism and concern, as it raised questions about it falling into the hands of the Taliban or other hostile groups. The U.S. military has said that it disabled some of the equipment before leaving, but it is not clear to what extent this was done and whether it was done effectively.
The Afghanistan war is America’s longest war, and after 20 years, the US military completed its withdrawal from the country in August 2021. However, it left behind approximately $7 billion worth of military equipment that the US had transferred to the Afghan government over the course of 16 years. The figure comes from a congressionally mandated report from the US Department of Defense, which was first viewed by CNN.
According to the report, equipment worth $7.12 billion remained in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal was completed on August 30, 2021. The equipment includes aircraft, air-to-ground munitions, military vehicles, weapons, communications equipment, and other materials. This equipment is now in a country 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 report also states that 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 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. President Biden has faced intense criticism for the way the US military left Afghanistan, including leaving behind military equipment and abandoning Afghan allies.
In addition to the $7 billion worth of equipment left behind, the US also transferred five Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine in 2022. These helicopters 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.
The US has also given some “non-standard munitions” to Ukraine, including about 37,000 122mm howitzer rounds, 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. These munitions have been transferred to Ukraine under presidential drawdown authority.
In terms of military equipment and weapons left behind in Afghanistan, aircraft worth $923.3 million remained in Afghanistan, and 78 aircraft procured for the government of Afghanistan were left at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul before the end of the withdrawal. The US military demilitarized and rendered them inoperable before leaving.
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 operational condition of the remaining vehicles in Afghanistan is unknown, according to the report.
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. 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.
Finally, 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, remained in Afghanistan at the time of the withdrawal, as did nearly all night vision, surveillance, biometric and positioning equipment totaling nearly 42,000 pieces of specialized equipment, and nearly all explosive ordinance disposal and demining equipment, including 17,500 pieces of explosive detection, electronic countermeasure, disposal, and personal protective equipment.