Black Hawk up! Taliban test-fly captured Afghan air force UH-60 helicopter 


The US gave the Afghan army at least $2 billion in Humvees and $147 million in Black Hawk helicopters in hopes that they would fight off the Taliban, but much of that equipment is now in the hands of the insurgent group as they take over the country.

The total money the US has spent in equipment for Afghanistan is much higher, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters last week that the US doesn’t have ‘a complete picture’ of where most of it has gone. 

The US has spent $83 billion in training and equipment to shore up the Afghan government since the war began in 2001. Aid to the country was $3 billion this year alone.

Some of that equipment includes 42,000 ‘light tactical vehicles’ – such as Ford Ranger pickups and cargo trucks –  and over 22,000 Humvees given to the Afghan security forces between 2003 and 2016.

Taliban fighters sit on an Afghan army Humvee on August 15. Much of the equipment the US has given Afghanistan has ‘fallen into the hands of the Taliban,’ according to a US official

Seven Black Hawk helicopters arrived in Afghanistan as late as last month

Seven Black Hawk helicopters arrived in Afghanistan as late as last month

Footage has emerged showing what looks like a Taliban test of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter

Footage has emerged showing what looks like a Taliban test of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter

Between 2004 and 2016, the US bought the Afghans more than 64,000 machine guns. Above, a Taliban fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in Kabul on Wednesday

Between 2004 and 2016, the US bought the Afghans more than 64,000 machine guns. Above, a Taliban fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in Kabul on Wednesday

The US spent about $2.13 billion in Humvees alone, based on an average price of $96,466 each.

Between 2007 and 2016, the US gave Afghan security forces 110 helicopters and 60 transport cargo airplanes, the according to a Government Accountability Office report published by transparency website Openthebooks.com

‘We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,’ Sullivan told reporters last week.

The White House revealed Wednesday that over the last 24 hours, 42 American flights dealt with the bulk of evacuations – transporting 11,200 from Kabul – meaning the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 87,900 people on U.S. military and coalition flights since the end of July. 

The Afghan military has four C-130 transport aircraft, seen above. US-provided military equipment is now in danger of falling into Taliban hands as the group takes over Afghanistan

The Afghan military has four C-130 transport aircraft, seen above. US-provided military equipment is now in danger of falling into Taliban hands as the group takes over Afghanistan

‘We don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.’  

The Afghan Army also got 18 ‘intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance’ airplanes such as the PC-12, a cargo aircraft made by Swiss company Pilatus.

It goes for $5 million in civilian prices – which would make for a total cost of $90 million to the US military – but prices are often much higher when equipment is sold to the military. 

Reports from the Government Accountability Office offer a glimpse into the total costs of the war in Afghanistan, which the US has spent $3 billion on just this year

Reports from the Government Accountability Office offer a glimpse into the total costs of the war in Afghanistan, which the US has spent $3 billion on just this year

Seven Black Hawk helicopters arrived in Afghanistan as late as last month, according to Reuters, and some of them may now be in the hands of the Taliban.

They cost about $21 million each, according to Military Machine

Recent footage shows what appears to be a Taliban test of a captured US-made UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter 

The US

The US 

The one-minute clip uploaded to Twitter shows the $6m Black Hawk helicopter, described as having been captured from Afghan security forces, moving along the tarmac at a seemingly otherwise deserted location.

Two men watch the chopper complete a loop of the area which is believed to be Kandahar airfield, where two cars are also visible in shot.

‘Taliban testing a captured Afghan UH-60,’ the post accompanying the video read. At no point did the helicopter leave the ground.

It is not clear if the UH-60 is the same that was seized by the Taliban on August 14 when images and footage of members of the group operating the $6million piece of equipment were shared on social media.

The one-minute clip uploaded to Twitter shows a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, described as having been captured from Afghan security forces, moving along the tarmac at a seemingly otherwise deserted location

The one-minute clip uploaded to Twitter shows a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, described as having been captured from Afghan security forces, moving along the tarmac at a seemingly otherwise deserted location

A series of videos also showed insurgents flying captured Russian choppers around the city of Kandahar.

The Afghan government pilots who fly the operational Russian helicopters were turned over to the Taliban, while the US helicopters were likely grounded by a lack of spare parts from the United States. 

It came as evidence emerged that the Taliban had also seized American-made Black Hawk helicopters, made famous in the 2001 Ridley Scott blockbuster Black Hawk Down. 

The Afghan military has more than 150 aircraft, according to a report published last month by the by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

It includes four C-130 transport aircraft, 23 Brazilian-made A-29 ‘Super Tucano’ turboprop ground-attack aircraft, 45 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and 50 smaller choppers.  

Afghan forces were also given more than 30 military versions of Cessna single-engine fixed-wing aircraft. 

Earlier this year, aerospace manufacturer MD Helicopters secured two contracts valued at $43.9 million to support the Afghan Air Force with MD 530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters, according to Airforce Technology.

In 2017, the US military lost $174 million in drones meant for the Afghan National Army. The ANA didn’t  immediately use the drones and then lost track of them, according to Forbes

The White House has spent billions of dollars on supplying the Afghan military with the necessary weapons and equipment to wipe out the Taliban, but following the collapse of local armed forces, their investment is now effectively being used by the insurgents themselves.

Earlier this month, a series of videos also showed insurgents flying captured Russian choppers around the city of Kandahar [File photo]

Earlier this month, a series of videos also showed insurgents flying captured Russian choppers around the city of Kandahar [File photo]

A Taliban fighter poses with a US-made Afghan air force Blackhawk helicopter at captured Kandahar airfield [File photo]

A Taliban fighter poses with a US-made Afghan air force Blackhawk helicopter at captured Kandahar airfield [File photo]

A series of videos shared on social media showed insurgents flying Russian-made aircraft around the city of Kandahar [File photo]

A series of videos shared on social media showed insurgents flying Russian-made aircraft around the city of Kandahar [File photo]

Afghan security forces are reported to have left valuable equipment behind as they fled incoming Taliban fighters.

Journalist Hollie McKay told NPR that the road out of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif was littered with US-made armored vehicles that the Afghan military had left behind.

‘On that road there is a lot of equipment that has been abandoned,’ McKay said. 

‘It was sort of unclear to me whether (the vehicles) were already destroyed by the soldiers, or that they were functioning and that the Taliban hadn’t quite figured out how to use them. But there was certainly a good bunch of them along that single road into Uzbekistan.’  

Between 2004 and 2016, the US bought the Afghan military more than 358,000 rifles, including M-16s and AK-47s, and more than 64,000 machine guns.

A common price of a M16 rifle is $749, according to the US Defense Logistics Agency, which handles equipment acquisitions for the military. 

That would put the total cost of M-16s purchased for the Afghan military at $268 million for the years listed.

Social media in the lead up to the fall of Kabul was awash with clips of fighters seizing weapons caches, but the taking of such high profile helicopters represented a significant statement of intent. 

The latest footage comes as countries continue to scramble to evacuate their citizens and others from Afghanistan before the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of the United States.

On Tuesday, the Taliban announced it was closing the airport road for Afghans, who were told they could no longer flee.

Hours later, U.S. President Joe Biden said that evacuation efforts were ‘on pace’ to finish by the end of the month.

The White House said it believed foreigners and Afghans in need could still reach the airport. 

The result has been continuing chaos around Hamid Karzai International Airport, where thousands of desperate people are seeking safety. 

On Tuesday, the Taliban announced it was closing the airport road for Afghans, who were told they could no longer flee. Pictured: People are evacuated by the U.S. Air Force on Tuesday

On Tuesday, the Taliban announced it was closing the airport road for Afghans, who were told they could no longer flee. Pictured: People are evacuated by the U.S. Air Force on Tuesday

There have been days of chaos around Hamid Karzai International Airport as people are trying desperately to flee the country

There have been days of chaos around Hamid Karzai International Airport as people are trying desperately to flee the country



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