FACTS FOCUS: Trump, others are wrong about U.S. equipment left over from the Taliban


In their stormy takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban usurped both political power and US-supplied firepower by stealing weapons, ammunition, helicopters and other modern military equipment from the Afghan armed forces that surrendered it.

But the equipment the Taliban acquired is not worth the $ 80 billion or more released this week by social media users and political figures like Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Lauren Boebert and former President Donald Trump were required.

While the US has spent $ 83 billion on building and maintaining the Afghan security forces since 2001, most of it has not gone into equipment. Nor will the Taliban be able to use every piece of American equipment that has been shipped to Afghanistan over two decades.

Here are the facts in more detail.

CLAIM: Taliban fighters now own US military equipment valued at $ 80 billion to $ 85 billion.

THE FACTS: Those numbers are vastly inflated, according to reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which oversees US tax dollars spent on the conflict.

In the last days of August, as US forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan, social media users began to claim that the Taliban’s “new arsenal” was worth up to $ 85 billion. Trump reinforced the falsehood in a statement Monday in which he wrote that “ALL EQUIPMENT should be required to be returned to the United States immediately, and that includes every penny of the cost of $ 85 billion.”

Its $ 85 billion figure is similar to a figure found in a July 30 SIGAR quarterly report that stated the US has invested approximately $ 83 billion in building, training and equipping Afghan security forces since 2001.

However, according to SIGAR reports and Dan Grazier, a defense policy analyst with the Project on Government Oversight, that funding included troop payments, training, operations and infrastructure, as well as equipment and transportation over two decades.

“We have spent well over $ 80 billion in support of the Afghan security forces,” said Grazier. “But that’s not all the device costs.”

In fact, between 2002 and 2018, only about $ 18 billion of that amount went into equipping Afghan armed forces, according to a SIGAR report from June 2019.

Another estimate from a 2017 report by the Government Accountability Office found that approximately 29% of the dollars spent on Afghan security forces funded equipment and transportation between 2005 and 2016. The means of transport included equipment as well as contracted pilots and aircraft for transporting officers to meetings.

If that percentage were held over the entire two-decade period, it would mean the U.S. has spent approximately $ 24 billion on equipment and transportation for Afghan forces since 2001.

But even if that were true, according to Grazier, much of the military equipment would be out of date after years of use. Additionally, American forces previously scrapped unwanted equipment and recently disabled dozens of Humvees and aircraft so they could not be used again, according to Marine Gen Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command.

While no one knows the exact value of the Afghan equipment provided by the Taliban, defense officials have confirmed that it is significant.


This is part of AP’s efforts to combat widespread misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact checking at AP.

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