Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., attempted to spin reports of Taliban militants showing off their newly acquired U.S. weaponry, arguing that the equipment was actually “property of the Afghan government” when it was seized during the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
“Almost all of the American military equipment was removed from Afghanistan prior to this mission of evacuating from the Kabul airport,” Garamendi, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, told MSNBC on Monday. “Now, that equipment is gone.”
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“There’s often the misunderstanding here about other American equipment,” he continued. “The U.S. has armed the previous Afghan government, 300,000 soldiers and all of the equipment that goes with it. We have been doing that for the last 20 years. With the collapse and total disappearance of the Ghani government, that equipment fell into the hands of the Taliban and they now have it. Indeed, it is American equipment, but it was the property of the Afghan government.”
The U.S. has provided an estimated $83 billion worth of training and equipment – including aircraft, armored vehicles, rifles, and tactical gear – to Afghan security forces since 2001. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces surrendered many of those weapons as the Taliban made their way through Afghanistan. After the central Afghan government collapsed to the Taliban on Aug. 15, pictures and videos have shown militants admiring their newly acquired weaponry.
“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly, a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Aug. 17.
Garamendi said “almost all of the American military equipment” was removed from Afghanistan, despite multiple reports saying the U.S. military equipment Taliban acquired was worth billions of dollars. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was called out earlier this month for attempting to spin similar reports, saying, “This is what happens when you withdraw.”
The U.S. evacuation effort at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, is expected to conclude Tuesday, more than two weeks after the capital’s collapse on Aug. 15. U.S. officials have said that while evacuating Americans and Afghans is the top priority, evacuating equipment brought in for the mission was also a focus and that controlled detonations remained an option.
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“With regard to equipment and machinery that was brought in to deal with this particular evacuation, yes, that will be able to be evacuated. Some of it already is,” Garamendi said Monday.
“Now, going forward will we be able to get all of the Americans out? I think the number probably 300 or so, yes,” he added. “The evacuations will continue until the last American jet leaves that airport. Those evacuations will continue even after the American military has left. There will continue to be evacuations from Kabul and from other areas. That is going to take place. With regard to all of the Afghans that are out there in trouble, they will continue to be evacuated as possible.”