US denies leaving military equipment behind in Afghanistan

US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communication John Kirby said no military equipment was left behind by American forces when they withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Kirby’s rebuttal was in answer to a question about reports that $7 billion worth of weapons were abandoned in the country. His comment also comes amid growing concerns in the region of American military weapons falling into the hands of militants.

Questions around the weapons being used by militants in the region were first raised in January last year when a video of militants in Kashmir brandishing what appeared to be American-made guns was shared widely on social media.

At the time, the Indian military said it had recovered at least seven American military weapons that were authentic.

“From the weapons and equipment that we recovered, we realized that there was a spillover of high-tech weapons, night-vision devices and equipment, which were left by the Americans in Afghanistan [and] were now finding their way toward this side,” Maj. Gen. Ajay Chandpuria, an Indian army official, was quoted as saying by Indian media last year.

Since then, concerns have grown. This week, Tajikistan reported having seized at least three US military assault rifles after an operation against three suspected terrorists. Pakistan’s military on Wednesday reported two outposts had been stormed by militants brandishing the “latest weapons”. Without saying as much, the military implied that the attackers had crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

In addition to continued reports of this nature regarding weapons, Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said four days ago that “US military equipment left behind during the American withdrawal from Afghanistan was now emerging as a new challenge” for Islamabad as it “enhanced the fighting capabilities” of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

However, Kirby was on Wednesday adamant that the US had not abandoned weapons. Instead he said: “The equipment that people are saying the Americans left behind, that was equipment that was transferred well in advance of our departure to the Afghan National Security Forces. … because that was part of the mission that our troops were involved in Afghanistan to do in the first place, which was to train up and to support Afghan national security forces as they took charge of security in their country.”

Kirby said the former Afghan National Security Forces, and not the US, abandoned the equipment.

According to a Department of Defense report published in August last year, more than $7.1 billion in US-funded military equipment was in the possession of the former security forces when the country fell to the Taliban in August 2021.

Earlier this year, US government watchdog SIGAR reported that the United States did not however have “a full accounting of equipment” before the collapse of the former government.