U.S. troops disabled 73 aircraft, weapons systems before leaving Kabul airport, report

A Taliban fighter sits in the cockpit of an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021, after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country to end a brutal 20-year war -- one that started and ended with the hardline Islamist in power. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

The US military disabled scores of aircraft and armored vehicles as well as a high-tech rocket defense system at the Kabul airport before it left Monday, a US general said.

Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie said 73 aircraft that were already at Hamid Karzai International Airport were “demilitarized,” or rendered useless, by US troops before they wrapped up the two-week evacuation of the Taliban-controlled country.

“They can inspect all they want, they can look at them, they can walk around, but they can’t fly them,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said. “They can’t operate them. We made sure to demilitarize to make unusable all the gear that is at the airport. All the aircraft, all the ground vehicles, the only thing that we left operable are a couple of fire trucks and some forklifts so that the airport itself can remain more operational going forward. So I think we’re not overly concerned about these images of them walking around. But again, we did everything we could to make sure that that equipment couldn’t be used by them going forward.”

Taliban fighters have plenty of weapons, ammunition and vehicles provided by the U.S. that they seized from military bases in other parts of Afghanistan as they took over the country.

“Those aircraft will never fly again… They’ll never be able to be operated by anyone,” he said.

A C-130 at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Photo by BBC.

“Most of them are non-mission capable to begin with. But certainly they’ll never be able to be flown again.”

He said the Pentagon, which built up a force of nearly 6,000 troops to occupy and operate Kabul’s airport when the airlift began on August 14, left behind around 70 MRAP armored tactical vehicles — which can cost up to $1 million apiece — that it disabled before leaving, and 27 Humvees.

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The vehicles “will never be used again by anyone,” he said.

A Taliban member looks up standing next to a damaged helicopter at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021, after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country to end a brutal 20-year war — one that started and ended with the hardline Islamist in power. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

The weapon systems used just hours earlier to counter Islamic State rockets launched toward the Kabul airport were kept operational until “the very last minute” as the final US military aircraft flew out, said reports. One of the last things US troops did was to make the so-called C-RAMS (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System) inoperable.

“We elected to keep those systems in operation up until the very last minute,” before the last US aircraft left, McKenzie said.

Photo by BBC

“It’s a complex procedure and time-intensive procedure to break down those systems. So we demilitarize those systems so that they’ll never be used again.”

McKenzie said they “demilitarized” the system so it can never be used again. Officials said troops did not blow up the equipment in order to ensure they left the airport workable for future flights, once those begin again. In addition, the American soldiers also disabled 27 Humvees and 73 aircraft so they can never be used again.

The US soldiers have left behind around 70 MRAP armoured tactical vehicles — which can cost up to $1 million apiece.

Throughout the day, as the final C-17 transport planes prepared to take off, McKenzie said the US kept “overwhelming US airpower overhead” to deal with potential Islamic State threats.

Photo by BBC

And the US also provided Afghan Army with more than 2,500 Humvees, from December 2017 to April 2020, according to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Specific costs may vary – but the unit price has been quoted as more than $250,000.

Other equipment experts say could be of huge tactical value to the Taliban include night-vision goggles,16,000 of which were provided to Afghan troops between 2003 and 2021.

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