By Rob Crilly
September 1, 2021
The Biden administration must develop a plan for destroying or immobilizing the billions of dollars of military hardware left in Afghanistan before it can be used by the Taliban or allied terrorist groups, said Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee on Wednesday.
He spoke to DailyMail.com before flying to the United Kingdom and Europe where he said he hoped to convince allies they can still count on Washington for global leadership despite President Biden’s withdrawal.
But on the day the Taliban paraded its military hardware through the streets of Kandahar, he said the most pressing issue was what to do about U.S. weaponry left behind.
‘One of the greatest concerns I have right now is the fact that we have left behind, billions of dollars of the world’s finest military equipment on the ground, in the hands of a terrorist organisation known as the Taliban and their close allies Al Qaeda, and ISIS, and others,’ he said.
The numbers are staggering.
Between 2003 and 2016, the U.S. supplied 208 aircraft and almost 76,000 vehicles, along with 600,000 weapons to the Afghan government, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The Taliban are believed to have got hold of as many as 48 aircraft which the US and its allies were either unable to disable or fly overseas. This means that the terrorists have an air force which is greater in number than that of 10 Nato countries
Then there are the U.S. military’s own vehicles and weapons that had to be abandoned to meet the August 31 deadline.
Hagerty said he would bring it up in meetings in London and with NATO allies in Europe.
‘It’s something we definitely need to be talking about,’ he said ahead of his arrival in London on Thursday morning.
‘Not talking about, I think, would be foolhardy.
‘I reached out to our Secretary of Defence for an inventory of what’s there, what’s been left behind and what the plan is to recapture, destroy or otherwise immobilise the equipment that’s on the ground. I’ve not yet received a response.’
Some of it was on display in Kandahar, where Taliban fighters perched on armored Humvees and SUV’s equipped with machine guns in a victory parade on Wednesday.
At least one Black Hawk helicopter has been spotted in the sky above the city.
American officials say U.S. forces made sure aircraft and weapons were made inoperable by departing troops.
But that still leaves thousands of armored vehicles, guns and aircraft supplied to local forces.
Hagerty said rebuilding trust meant being honest about learning lessons from the crisis in Afghanistan. ‘Rather than spinning this, which is what the world is seeing right now, this administration should have stood up and addressed it to head on,’ he said
Hagerty said his main message for parliamentarians in London would be that the Special Relationship with the U.K. endured.
‘I think is also important just to be able to sit down and talk with British lawmakers who are quite rightly concerned about what occurred in Afghanistan, our resolve, and our will to lead right now,’ he said.
Washington’s coalition partners have complained about being blindsided by Biden’s decision to leave by Sept 11.
At worst, the likes of Rory Stewart, a former Member of Parliament and Army officer who served in Afghanistan, said the country had been ‘humiliated.’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with other G7 leaders made a last, futile effort to persuade Biden to delay the withdrawal past August 31.
Members of his party even called for London to rethink its reliance on Washington and consider strengthening other relationships.
Before being elected to Senate last year, Hagerty was U.S. ambassador to Japan.
That meant taking responsibility for a ‘non-combatant evacuation operation plan’ in the case of an attack by North Korea.
Allies, he said, depended on the U.S. getting it right for the safety and security of their nationals.
Restoring confidence in American leadership meant being honest about what went wrong in Afghanistan.
‘Rather than spinning this, which is what the world is seeing right now, this administration should have stood up and addressed it to head on,’ he said.
‘And I think what we’ve got to do is let our allies know that our relationship is terribly important.’
The Biden administration has repeatedly declared the evacuation a success, citing more than 120,000 people flown to safety despite the extreme danger of terrorist attack at Kabul airport and the fact that more than 100 U.S. nationals were left behind.
Biden himself has blamed the rapid fall of Kabul on the Afghan government for its lack of leadership and Afghan armed forces for failing to put up a fight.
Hagerty said rebuilding the trust of allies meant being honest about what went wrong.
‘My goal is to meet with our allies there in Britain to thank them, to understand from their perspective what happened on the ground, what lessons we can learn from that so that this doesn’t happen again, and also to look forward and talk about what we can do to strengthen our alliances,’ he said.
‘We have now found ourselves in an even more challenging world from a national security standpoint.’
After London, Hagerty is due to head to Brussels, the capital of Belgium, for meetings at NATO headquarters.