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Fact check: how much US kit have the Taliban got?

WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

With the war in Afghanistan having officially ended on Monday, the world’s thoughts have turned to how the Taliban will govern Afghanistan – and what equipment left behind by coalition forces they now have at their disposal. Some $88 billion was spent by the US government alone since 2002 on security reconstruction – primarily equipping the Afghan army and police forces with training and kit. Now, with the messy withdrawal complete, much of that equipment has been left behind in Afghanistan.

Caution should be taken with that headline figure however. Much of that $88 billion would have gone to the Afghan army in salaries, for instance, while consumables such as fuel and the maintenance of said weapons also ate up budgets too. As defence expert John Pike, director of, told Politifact, ‘very little’ of the total sum would have been spent on equipment. He estimated that the military equipment remaining is worth less than $10 billion, though virtually all of it could be considered under the category of weapons.

The Sunday Times published a graphic which went viral last week, depicting the total amount of equipment (guns, trucks, aircraft and so on) that was sent to Afghanistan during the 20-year occupation. This includes up to 22,174 Humvee vehicles, nearly 1,000 armoured vehicles, 64,363 machine guns, and 42,000 pick-up trucks and SUVs. Weaponry includes up to 358,530 assault rifles, 126,295 pistols, and nearly 200 artillery units. 


Again though this is a total inventory of weapons sent over two decades: much of that kit will no longer be in the country. General Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command has today announced that 73 aircraft, including fixed-wing craft and helicopters, had to abandoned but that none of these would ever fly again. Figures for SIGAR, the American mission in Afghanistan, show there were only three C-130s in the country at the end of June.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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