Littering social media feeds and news headlines are photos of Taliban fighters sporting U.S. military weaponry, including M4 and M16 rifles, night vision goggles, radios, and Humvees. Task and Purpose, an online publication covering military and defense news reported last week that between the years of 2003 and 2016, more than 75,000 vehicles, nearly 600,000 weapons systems, and over 200 aircraft had been transferred from the United States to Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Much of the equipment recently pictured in Taliban possession was left behind by Afghan armed forces in the wake of Taliban advances. Some of the equipment is likely not operable, and the Taliban lacks the technological prowess to operate and maintain some of what was left behind, yet one foreign news site has already referred to these widely circulated photos as an embarrassment to the White House.
In answer to a question on the U.S. response to Taliban weapon seizures, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby responded, “We don’t obviously want to see our equipment in the hands of those who would act against our interest or the interest of the Afghan people, and increase violence and insecurity inside Afghanistan.” Reuters quoted one U.S. official as saying, “Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now.” Whether or not the seizure of military equipment by Taliban fighters constitutes a real and lasting threat, it does represent a black eye to the United States and a nearly extinct Afghan military.
While Pentagon officials admit there is little or nothing that can be done about U.S. weaponry in terrorists’ hands, the State Department has meanwhile issued new sanctions on Russia, effectively banning the import of Russian ammo to the United States. The new sanctions imposed represent a response to the August 2020 poisoning of Aleksey Navalny and include: “Restrictions on the permanent imports of certain Russian firearms. New and pending permit applications for the permanent importation of firearms and ammunition manufactured or located in Russia will be subject to a policy of denial.”
The popular firearms and hunting magazine, Guns and Ammo, notes the impact of these new sanctions on an already uncertain ammunition market here in the U.S.: “ Even for those that don’t use the Russian ammo, you can expect to feel some more pain at the cash register as the presence of relatively cheap and very reliable ammunition helps keep the price down on other segments of the ammunition industry.” The new sanctions are expected to go into effect on September 7 and last for 12 months, unless further extended by the White House.