Shortly after the last U.S. military flights left Afghanistan on Monday, videos emerged of Taliban fighters entering the Kabul airport and getting their hands on a new trove of abandoned U.S. military equipment.
On Monday, Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent Nabih Bulos tweeted a video of Taliban fighters with full U.S.-style tactical gear, entering a hanger containing abandoned CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, which are similar in appearance to the newer CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. “#Taliban fighters enter a hangar in #Kabul Airport and examine #chinook helicopters after #US leaves #Afghanistan.”
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told AFP the U.S. left behind 73 aircraft at the Kabul airport, but said troops “demilitarized” the aircraft, rendering them inoperable, before they departed.
“Those aircraft will never fly again. . . They’ll never be able to be operated by anyone,” he said. “Most of them are non-mission capable to begin with. But certainly they’ll never be able to be flown again.”
Bulos tweeted a video of other aircraft, such as an A-29 Super Tucano and an MD-530 Defender helicopter. He noted many of the aircraft appeared to have been disabled. “#Afghan Air force planes, including A29 Super Tucanos and MD 530s helicopters. Some of the #Taliban’s haul after #US withdrawal. Many seem to have been disabled.”
Around 70 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (M-RAP) armored tactical vehicles, each costing up to $1 million, were also left behind and disabled, AFP reported. Another 27 Humvee armored vehicles were also abandoned.
McKenzie also said U.S. troops left behind multiple counter rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) systems that had helped defend the Kabul airport from rocket attacks.
“We elected to keep those systems in operation up until the very last minute,” before the last US aircraft left, McKenzie said. “It’s a complex procedure and time-intensive procedure to break down those systems, so we demilitarize those systems so that they’ll never be used again.”
AFP tweeted, “VIDEO: US military disabled aircraft before leaving Kabul airport. Taliban’s ‘Badri 313’ special forces unit are seen on the tarmac Tuesday morning.”
While much of the military equipment had been demilitarized, the Taliban still took the opportunity to pose with the abandoned gear.
In one photo, Taliban leaders posed in front of a damaged C-130 transport plane, which was clearly tilting to its side.
“Taliban leadership posing in front of C-130 aircraft this morning at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul,” CBC journalist Aditya Raj Kaul tweeted.
CNN International more photos of Taliban members inspecting the abandoned aircraft at the Kabul airport.
“On Tuesday morning, photographs from Kabul airport showed members of the Taliban making their way through an abandoned hanger strewn with equipment the US left behind.”
Journalist Anas Mallick tweeted, “At the Kabul airports military side which now stands abandoned by the US and is in control of the Taliban and all I can say is that pretty surreal scenes here. #Afghanistan.”