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01st Sep 2021

Taliban seize 48 aircraft after they were abandoned by US forces

Kieran Galpin

The Taliban now has a bigger aerial armoury than a third of Nato members

The Taliban has seized aerial military equipment worth tens of millions of pounds, including US-bought helicopters and attack planes, and now have a bigger aerial armoury than a third of Nato members.

While the Taliban were initially seen testing gym equipment and playing in dodgem cars at an amusement park after seizing Kabul on August 15, they’ve since been test-driving far more troubling equipment – that left behind by western forces finished their evacuations over the weekend.

Taliban chiefs are reported to have ordered their troops to hunt down pilots from the disbanded Afghan Air Force, who received training from the US on managing and maintaining their aerial assault vehicles.

The Afghan Air Force was operating 167 aircraft, including 108 helicopters and 59 planes, according to an official US government inspection on June 30.

However, Uzbekistan confirmed that 46 Afghan aircraft, including 24 helicopters, had arrived in the country before the fall of Kabul.

General Frank McKenzie, the US general in charge of evacuation efforts, said that his troops were able to dismantle 73 aircraft before finally leaving the country on Monday night, marking the end of a two-decade-long crusade.

“Those aircraft will never fly again… They’ll never be able to be operated by anyone,” said McKenzie. “Most of them are non-mission capable, to begin with. But certainly, they’ll never be able to be flown again.”

That leaves as many as 48 aircraft in Taliban possession.

The Taliban now have more aerial equipment than ten of the thirty Nato members, including Albania, Bosnia, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Slovenia.

At the top of the Nato, hierarchy is the US with more than 13,000 aircraft, followed by France with 1,057, Turkey with 1,056, Italy with 876 and the United Kingdom with 738.

Footage released on Wednesday shows an American-made Black Hawk (worth $6m) on route to Panjshir Valley, where the Northern Alliance resistance fighters are fighting the country’s last stand.

Though Black Hawks are primarily tactical transport vehicles, they are able to be adapted for more invasive combat situations. With space for two mounted machine guns, unguided Hydra missiles, and laser-guided Hellfire or Stinger missiles, the Black Hawk is capable of obscene amounts of destruction.

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