The Taliban appeared to have taken flight on Monday in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that the U.S. donated to the Afghan government.
Videos shared on Twitter show the military helicopter flying over the Afghan city of Kandahar and it is reportedly being piloted by Taliban members.
A Pakistani military commentator tweeted, “Taliban flying an American-supplied UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Reportedly over Kandahar. According to BBC, the Afghan airforce had 33 of them in their inventory back in June. Unclear how many were captured by the Taliban & how many were smuggled to uzbekistan. #Afghanistan.”
Another video purported to show a Taliban member hanging from the Black Hawk in a Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE) rig as the helicopter flew over Kandahar.
“Video, The Taliban flying one of the captured UH-60A Black Hawk Helicopter in Kandahar. #Afganisthan.”
The Monday flight comes just days after videos purported to show Taliban members taxiing a Black Hawk helicopter around the runway of the Kandahar airport in southeastern Afghanistan in an apparent joy ride.
The Taliban took control of the Kandahar airport just days before the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed on August 15. A viral photo taken around that time showed a man, holding the white flag of the Taliban, standing beside an Afghan Air Force Black Hawk.
“A Taliban fighter poses with a US-made Afghan air force Blackhawk helicopter at captured Kandahar airfield (Daily Mail UK Online).”
The U.S. spent approximately $85 billion to train and equip Afghan government forces between 2002 and now.
The Hill reported, based on a 2017 Government Accountability Office report, that between 2002 and 2016, the U.S. gave Afghan government forces 75,898 vehicles, 599,690 weapons, 162,643 pieces of communications equipment, 208 aircraft, and 16,191 pieces of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment.
Further, a 2020 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that between 2017 and 2019, the U.S. gave Afghan forces an additional 7,035 machine guns, 4,702 Humvees, 20,040 hand grenades, 2,520 bombs and 1,394 grenade launchers, along with other equipment.
Thousands of Afghan government forces were able to flee the country ahead of the Taliban advance and some flew out of the country on various military aircraft. It is unknown how many aircraft were left behind for the Taliban to capture.