Some arguments are not really worth having. The debate over how much American military equipment had been left behind in Afghanistan is one of those. The real answer is that we don’t know and by ‘we’, I don’t just mean us, but the White House and the Pentagon don’t really know. The sheer amount of corruption in the entire system means that anything we gave the Afghans risked being sold. Equipment and material were reported as destroyed that were actually sold. And so it’s all but impossible to know anything for sure except that we left too much behind.
The right amount of equipment to leave behind for the Taliban was zero. The Pentagon claims that it was only $7 billion.
Approximately $7 billion of military equipment the US transferred to the Afghan government over the course of 16 years was left behind in Afghanistan after the US completed its withdrawal from the country in August, according to a congressionally mandated report from the US Department of Defense viewed by CNN.
This equipment is now in a country that is controlled by the very enemy the US was trying to drive out over the past two decades: the Taliban. The Defense Department has no plans to return to Afghanistan to “retrieve or destroy” the equipment, reads the report, which has been provided to Congress.
The US gave a total of $18.6 billion of equipment to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) from 2005 to August 2021, according to the report. Of that total, equipment worth $7.12 billion remained in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal was completed on August 30, 2021. It included aircraft, air-to-ground munitions, military vehicles, weapons, communications equipment and other materials, according to the DoD report.
We’ve seen varied estimates that are all over the map. Most of those begin with either a maximum total of all the money we spent on providing weapons to Afghan forces (a number no one knows because government accounting is also all but impossible to fully tabulate) or attempts at minimizing it by government officials.
But what we do know is that the correct number should have been zero. Everything else is a matter of details.