White House says ‘a fair amount’ of US military equipment is in Taliban’s hands

Jake sullivan
US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily press briefing on the situation in Afghanistan at the White House on August 17, 2021. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images
  • The White House acknowledged that US military equipment has fallen into Taliban’s hands.
  • “We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
  • Taliban forces have seized US defense materials over the years.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The White House acknowledged on Tuesday that US military equipment has fallen into the hands of Taliban forces.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters during a press briefing that “certainly a fair amount” of the US’s defense apparatus is now in Taliban control.

“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone. But certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” Sullivan said. “And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are readily going to hand it over to us at the airport.”

The admission comes a day after US Army Major General Hank Taylor told reporters during a Pentagon briefing that he does “not have the answer to that question” on whether the US is taking any steps to prevent its equipment from landing in the Taliban’s hands.

A spokesperson for the Pentagon on Monday told Insider that defense officials are “looking” for information on the military equipment that was left behind amid the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the sudden collapse of the US-backed Afghan government over the weekend.

Taliban forces swept the country in a little over a week, claiming the capital Kabul on Sunday. The escalation sent many Afghans scrambling to leave the war-torn nation and the US government rushing to evacuate its embassy personnel.

During its capture of the country, the Taliban acquired a vast amount of US defense materials, including combat aircraft, guns, and helicopters.

The US government spent billions of dollars to equip and train Afghan security forces over the war’s two decades. But US weaponry ending up with Taliban forces is not new. The insurgent group has claimed to have seized American automatic rifles, grenade launchers, weapons optics, radios, humvees, and other US military articles over the years.

The Pentagon has a history of losing track of its weaponry delivered to foreign nations. It failed to account for around $715 million of equipment sent to Syrian partners to fight ISIS in 2017 and 2018. A similar outcome happened in Yemen in 2015, when the Pentagon lost track of more than $500 million in military materials.