In brokering the surrender of entire Afghan army divisions over the past week, the Taliban took control of billions worth of American-made weapons and equipment, including small arms, Humvees, pickup trucks, aircraft and drones.
In the chaos of the moment, however, it’s unclear to U.S. officials how much equipment the Taliban has seized and how much sits unattended on bases and small combat outposts across the country. That uncertainty over the status of a massive arsenal is sparking fears of a regional arms bazaar that could be a boon to terrorist groups and insurgents.
“What we are seeing now is these weapons, which have ended up in the hands of the Taliban, will probably circulate in the region for many decades to come,” said Nils Duquet, Flemish Peace Institute interim director. “At the moment, they’re very instrumental [because] if you want to control territory, you need small arms.”
The images that have spread across the world over the past week of Taliban fighters posing in front of captured helicopters and light attack aircraft have allowed the group to further humiliate the former Afghan and American governments. But these images don’t concern longtime extremism watchers as much as the proliferation of guns, bullets and grenades.