A group of GOP senators called Wednesday for a full accounting of U.S. military equipment that may have fallen into the hands of Taliban militants during the ongoing chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the lawmakers said they were “horrified” to see images of Taliban militants in possession of military equipment, including “Black Hawk” helicopters. They called on the Pentagon to provide detailed information on what equipment is still in the country.
“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Concerns about the Taliban’s potential seizure of U.S. equipment intensified in recent days as insurgents retook vast swaths of territory. The U.S. has spent more than $80 billion to train and equip Afghan security forces over the last two decades.
GOP senators who signed the letter to Austin included Sens. Marco Rubio, Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Ron Johnson and Rick Scott, among others.
When asked at a Wednesday press briefing about the possibility of destroying equipment rather than allow the Taliban to seize it, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley declined to comment, citing ongoing efforts to evacuate U.S. personnel.
“On the equipment, we obviously have capabilities, but I’d prefer not to discuss any operations other than what we’re doing right now in order to get our evacuation out and get that complete,” Milley said. “And then there’ll be another time when we can discuss future operations.”
Earlier this week, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan acknowledged that a “fair amount” of equipment was already in the Taliban’s hands. He added U.S. officials “don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”
The lawmakers called for a “full account” of equipment provided to Afghan security forces over the last year, as well as supplies known to have been seized by the Taliban or that was destroyed prior to the U.S. withdrawal.
They requested information on how quickly the Taliban may be able to make use of captured military equipment and an assessment on whether they could seek assistance from U.S. geopolitical rivals such as Russia or Iran. The senators also asked the Pentagon to detail any ongoing effort to recapture or destroy lost equipment.