Taliban Gains Ground Fast in Afghanistan: Seizes Large Caches of American Arms

As the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan comes close to its 20th anniversary, Washington has set the date as a deadline for withdrawing all American forces from the Central Asian country as part of a broader effort to rebalance its military attention to focus more on East Asia. 

As the presence of Western forces in the country has diminished, the Afghan National Army has increasingly shown signs of disintegrating, with some soldiers defecting to neighbouring countries for protection while other units have abandoned equipment or even sold it on to the Taliban. 

This has resulted in a rapid increase in the Taliban’s firepower, with morale so poor among government forces that entire battalions of soldiers have disbanded of their own accord in anticipation of Kabul’s fall to the insurgents. Estimates by Forbes indicate that Taliban insurgents have acquired 715 Humvees and other light trucks and dozens of armoured vehicles and heavy artillery systems in the past few weeks alone. These claims have been supported by images of Afghan security forces surrendering large quantities of weapons and equipment to the Taliban.

While a fall of Kabul to the Taliban remains a significant possibility, it is unlikely that a Taliban-led government would be able to sustain a military comparable to that of the U.S.-backed Afghan government for a number of reasons. A lack of technicians or other trained personnel to maintain existing equipment in the medium-long term is one key factor. 

Another is the fact that American-built vehicles, for example, the Afghan government’s 25,000 Humvees, require a great deal of fuel which the post-war government is unlikely to be willing or able to afford. Spare parts will also be an issue, with the government had relied on Western support which will end if Kabul changes hands. The fate of post-war Afghanistan remains uncertain, with the Taliban’s rule expected to potentially be challenged by the Islamic State terror group. 

Former president Hamid Karzai has accused Western countries of supporting the terror group in Afghanistan for the purpose of destabilising neighbouring countries such as Iran and China - which both have borders with Afghanistan. 

China, for its part, maintained relatively positive ties with the Taliban preceding its removal from power in 2001, and has criticised the  U.S.’ “hasty withdrawal” for having “dealt a serious blow to the peace process” and “negatively affected regional stability.” Afghanistan was formerly one of the most developed countries in the region in the 1970s, although Western, Pakistani and Arab support for a radical Islamist insurgency from 1979 resulted in over 40 years of war and retardation of social and economic progress by several decades. 

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