A GOP senator is pushing the Pentagon to destroy the new Taliban air force feared to include dozens of helicopters and planes — as the insurgents complain that the US didn’t leave behind even more working aircraft.
The US military said it “demilitarized” equipment before leaving Kabul’s airport on Monday, but the Taliban possesses some operable aircraft, including Black Hawk helicopters believed to have been abandoned by the Afghan military.
“‘I reached out to our secretary of defense for an inventory of what’s there, what’s been left behind and what the plan is to recapture, destroy or otherwise immobilize the equipment that’s on the ground. I’ve not yet received a response,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
The British paper interviewed Hagerty — a former US ambassador to Japan — as he embarked on a trip to Europe, including the UK, to discuss the aftermath of the chaotic US withdrawal.
The Pentagon declined to comment.
The Taliban’s swift final victory over US-allied forces in the 20-year war resulted from the Afghan military’s collapse, after President Biden provided extra equipment ahead of the anticipated onslaught.
The Afghan Air Force had 167 aircraft provided by the US — 46 of which were flown to Uzbekistan to prevent them from falling into the Taliban’s hands. It’s unclear how many remained fully operable and whether any working US planes or helicopters also remained behind enemy lines.
This week the Taliban flew a Black Hawk helicopter above Kandahar with the group’s flag waved from the chopper’s door.
Prominent Taliban leader Anas Haqqani complained about the US destroying some aircraft before leaving.
“They have destroyed our national assets,” Haqqani reportedly complained after inspecting smashed-up US machinery at Kabul’s airport this week.
Taliban propagandists and some media outlets published images of helicopters with bent blades and damaged electrical wiring.
“They can look all they want but they can’t fly them,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a Tuesday interview with CNN regarding aircraft left in Kabul.
But the Taliban says they have pilots and experts who weren’t evacuated by the US and that they plan to rebuild.
“We have all that spare parts of the helicopters which have been broken. The technition [sic] are on the way to repair it all,” a prominent Taliban social media personality claimed on Twitter Wednesday.