By Yaron Steinbuch
A video has emerged that appears to show Taliban fighters taking a Black Hawk helicopter on a joyride at an Afghan airport — the latest example of how the insurgents are flaunting their newly acquired military gear and rubbing it in America’s face.
The former Afghan air force UH-60 Black Hawk is seen taxiing at an airport in Afghanistan, according to the Independent. However, it does not appear to leave the ground in the footage.
Russian television network RT and tech and motoring outlet The Drive identified the airfield as Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan.
Joseph Dempsey, a research associate for defense and military analysis at London thinktank the International Institute for Strategic Studies, also tweeted the clip and identified the airfield as Kandahar Airport.
The Drive noted that while the US-made chopper wasn’t seen leaving the ground, it could at least be seen as another propaganda effort by the extremists, who have seized a massive trove of US weapons worth billions after they toppled the government on Aug. 14.
It remains unclear exactly how many former Afghan military aircraft are under Taliban control, though Reuters last week reported that they seized about 40 fixed-wing planes and choppers.
Experts and observers have identified what appeared to be at least four Black Hawks under Taliban control, including two at the Kandahar airfield, the site of a major airbase the US turned over to the now-defunct Afghan government, The Drive reported.
Earlier this week, Taliban fighters were pictured showing off their new uniforms and gear taken from US special forces stockpiles provided to the Afghan army.
Members of the so-called Badri 313 Brigade have been featured in the ISIS-style propaganda footage clad in what appear to be US military outfits, ditching their traditional turbans for the distinctive special forces helmets with mounts for night-vision goggles.
Meanwhile, a government watchdog group said the US military is leaving behind 75,000 vehicles, 600,000 weapons and 208 aircraft in Afghanistan, according to the Daily Wire.
“We’ve made the Taliban into a major US arms dealer for the next decade,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of Open the Books, a US-based nonprofit group that studies government spending, the news outlet reported.
“They now control 75,000 military vehicles. This is about 50,000 tactical vehicles, 20,000 Humvees, they control about 1,000 mine-resistant vehicles, and even about 150 armored personnel carriers,” he added.
Andrzejewski said the US has spent $83 billion on Afghan security forces through training and equipment since 2001.
“We built them a pretty amazing war chest and now all of it is in the hands of the Taliban,” he said. “We know that last month, as late as July, seven new helicopters were being delivered in the capital city of Kabul.”
The CEO said that while his group has been able to tally up equipment left behind, the numbers are incomplete.
“We found a federal audit that detailed up to $200 million worth of drones that had disappeared,” Andrzejewski said, the Daily Wire reported. “We don’t know where 600,000 weapons are within the country.”
According to reports, the US gave the Afghan military about $28 billion in weaponry between 2002 and 2017 — including seven brand new helicopters delivered to Kabul just a month ago.
The war chest also included the supply of the 600,000 infantry weapons — including M16 assault rifles — as well as 162,000 pieces of communication equipment and 16,000 night-vision goggles.
In just two years from 2017 to 2019, the US gave 7,035 machine guns, 4,702 Humvees, 20,040 hand grenades, 2,520 bombs and 1,394 grenade launchers, The Hill reported, citing a report last year from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” one US official told Reuters, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Videos have already captured Taliban fighters triumphantly opening crates of seized weapons, including US-made M4 carbines and M16 rifles, The Hill reported. They’ve also been spotted with US Humvees.
On Wednesday, more than two dozen Republican senators demanded a “full account” of what’s been seized — and what plans are in place to get it back.
“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by US taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the 25 senators told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.