FACT CHECK: Did The Taliban Take Control Of $85 Billion Worth Of US Military Equipment?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims the Taliban took control of over $85 billion worth of U.S. military equipment in Afghanistan.

Screenshot/Facebook

Verdict: Misleading

While the U.S. has appropriated over $88 billion to “help the Afghan government provide security in Afghanistan” over roughly 20 years, not all of those funds went toward equipment. The funding also went toward things such as salaries, training, infrastructure and maintenance. Estimates vary, but the U.S. equipment left behind does not appear to equal $85 billion.

Fact Check:

The Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan amid the U.S. withdrawal of troops from the country, according to The New York Times. In the wake of the last U.S. troops leaving Aug. 31, the Taliban quickly took possession of American-made equipment left behind by the U.S. and Afghan militaries, CNN reported. Some Facebook users have alleged that equipment is worth over $85 billion.

The figure mentioned in the Facebook post – over $85 billion – appears to stem from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) July 30 quarterly report, which stated about $88.6 billion had been appropriated from fiscal year 2002 to June 30 to “help the Afghan government provide security in Afghanistan.” Of that roughly $88.6 billion in appropriations, some $82.9 went to the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF), according to the quarterly report.

However, not all of the approximately $88.6 billion appropriated to “help the Afghan government provide security in Afghanistan” went toward military equipment. The Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) was created to provide the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces with “equipment, supplies, services, training, and funding for salaries, as well as facility and infrastructure repair, renovation, and construction,” according to the quarterly report.

“A significant portion of ASFF money is used for Afghan Air Force (AAF) aircraft maintenance, and for ANA [Afghan National Army], AAF, and Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) salaries,” the SIGAR quarterly report states at one point. “The rest of ASFF is used for fuel, ammunition, vehicle, facility and equipment maintenance, and various communications and intelligence infrastructure.” (RELATED: Image Claims To Show The Taliban Hanging A Man From A Helicopter)

The amount of money the U.S. spent on military equipment for Afghan security forces appears to be much lower than the Facebook post’s $85 billion, according to reports from Reuters, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), The Washington Post and SIGAR. For instance, Reuters reported the U.S. provided $28 billion of equipment between 2002 and 2017.

A 2017 GAO report said 29 percent of all ASFF funding – around $18 billion – disbursed between fiscal year 2005 and fiscal year 2016 went to “equipment and transportation.” Those transportation disbursements were “related to transporting equipment and for contracted pilots and airplanes for transporting officials to meeting,” according to the GAO report. The Washington Post noted that if that percentage held for all 20 years, the U.S. would have spent $24 billion on equipment and transportation.

SIGAR’s July 2021 quarterly report noted that between fiscal year 2005 and the third quarter of fiscal year 2021, the U.S. disbursed about $18.6 billion to the ASFF for equipment and transportation.

The U.S. military did leave behind equipment such as Humvees, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, aircraft and rocket systems during its withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to USA Today. U.S. Central Command’s Gen. Frank McKenzie Jr. said in an Aug. 30 press briefing that equipment was removed or rendered inoperable at Kabul’s airport as the U.S. military left.

“We have also demilitarized equipment that we did not bring out at of the airport that included a number of MRAPs – up to 70 MRAPs that we demilitarized that will never be used again by anyone; 27 Humvees, that little tactical vehicle, that will never be driven again,” McKenzie said, according to a transcript. “And additionally, on the ramp at – at HKIA are a total of 73 aircraft. Those aircraft will never fly again when we left.”

John Pike, a defense expert and the director of GlobalSecurity.org, told Check Your Fact in an email that the demilitarized equipment “might have some value as a spare parts bin but not as a weapon.” He also estimated the total value of the U.S. military equipment seized by the Taliban is at least $1 billion, but “surely less than $10 billion.”

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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