Staggering costs – US military equipment left behind in Afghanistan


The United States has provided approximately $ 83 billion in training and equipment to Afghan security forces since 2001. This year alone, US military assistance to Afghan forces amounted to $ 3 billion.

Putting price tags on US military equipment still in Afghanistan is no easy task. In the fog of war – or withdrawal – Afghanistan has always been a black box with little sunlight.

Not promoting transparency, the Biden administration is now hiding key audits on Afghan military equipment. This week, our listeners republished two key reports on the US war chest of military equipment in Afghanistan that had disappeared from federal websites..

# 1. Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit of military equipment supplied by the United States to Afghanistan (August 2017): republished report (dead link: report).

# 2. Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) audit of $ 174 million of lost ScanEagle drones (July 2020): republished report (dead link: report).

American taxpayers have paid for these audits and the equipment provided by the United States and should be able to track the money.

In addition, unless otherwise stated, when estimating “acquisition value” our source is the Department Logistics Agency (DLA) and its comprehensive databases of military equipment.

Vehicles and planes

Between 2003 and 2016, the United States purchased and supplied 75,898 vehicles and 208 aircraft to the Afghan military and security forces, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

Here is a breakdown of the estimated costs of the vehicle:

  • Armored personnel carriers such as the M113A2 cost $ 170,000 each, and recent purchases of the M577A2 post carrier cost $ 333,333 each.
  • Mine resistant vehicles range from $ 412,000 to $ 767,000. The total cost could vary between $ 382 million and $ 711 million.
  • Recovery vehicles such as the “truck, tow truck” cost between $ 168,960 for the base model and $ 880,674 for the heavy-duty versions.
  • Medium-range tactical vehicles include 5 ton freight trucks and general haul trucks priced at $ 67,139. However, the MTV heavy-duty family had prices ranging from $ 235,500 to $ 724,820 each. Cargo trucks to transport planes cost $ 800,865.
  • Humvees – type of ambulance (range from $ 37,943 to $ 142,918 with most at $ 96,466); type of cargo, priced at $ 104,682. Utility Humvees were typically priced at $ 91,429. However, the 12,000 lb personnel carrier version cost as much as $ 329,000.
  • Light tactical vehicles: rapid attack combat vehicles ($ 69,400); and passenger cars ($ 65,500). 4-wheel all-terrain vehicles go as high as $ 42,273 in military databases.

This month, the Taliban seized Black Hawk helicopters and A-29 Super Tucano attack jets. As recently as last month, the Afghan Defense Ministry posted photos of seven newly arrived helicopters from the United States on social media, Reuters reported.

Black Hawk helicopters can cost up to $ 21 million. In 2013, the United States placed an order for 20 A-29 Super Tucano attack jets for $ 427 million, or $ 21.3 million for each aircraft. Other specialty helicopters can cost up to $ 37 million each.

The Afghan Air Force contracted for C-208 light attack aircraft in March 2018: seven planes for $ 84.6 million, or $ 12.1 million each. The planes are very sophisticated and carry HELLFIRE missiles, anti-tank missiles and other weapons.

PC-12 intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft use the latest technology. That these planes fall under the control of the Taliban is disconcerting. Civilian models sell new for around $ 5 million each, and military planes could sell for several times that price.

The price of basic fixed-wing aircraft ranges from $ 3.1 million to $ 22 million in the DLA database.

Of course, helicopter prices also vary widely depending on the technology, purpose, and equipment. For example, according to the DLA, the price of general-purpose helicopters ranges from $ 92,000 to $ 922,000. Observation helicopters can cost $ 92,000 and utility helicopters up to $ 922,000.

Even though the Taliban cannot fly our planes, the parts are very valuable. For example, only the control stick on some military aircraft has a purchase value of $ 17,808, and a fuel tank sells for up to $ 35,000.

Lost drones

In 2017, the US military lost $ 174 million in drones that were part of the attempt to help the Afghan National Army (ANA) defend itself. But the ANA did not immediately use the drones and then lost track of them.

This week, the SIGAR audit of the $ 174 million drone loss disappeared from its website.

Weapons, communications equipment, and night vision goggles

Since 2003, the United States has provided Afghan forces with at least 600,000 infantry weapons, including M16 assault rifles, 162,000 pieces of communications equipment and 16,000 night vision goggles, according to the GAO report. .

The howitzer is the modern gun of the US Army and each unit can cost up to $ 500,000; However, most are in the $ 200,000 price range. At the top end, there is GPS guidance on the shells fired.

A common price for an M16 rifle is $ 749, according to DLA. Adding a grenade launcher can push the price of the M16 to $ 12,032. M4 rifles are slightly more expensive with unit prices up to $ 1,278.

Only sights on night vision sniper rifle scopes can fetch $ 35,000, however, most are priced between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000.

Here are the costs of other types of weapons supplied to Afghan forces:

  • The machine guns, the M240 model, cost between $ 6,600 and $ 9,000 each.
  • Grenade launchers cost between $ 1,000 and $ 5,000 each; however, in 2020 the manufacturing sold 53 for $ 15,000 each.
  • Army shotguns were acquired for just $ 150 each, according to the DLA.
  • Military pistols cost $ 320 each, like the .40 caliber Glock Generation 3.

Each Aerostat surveillance balloon costs $ 8.9 million. Each ScanEagle drone costs around $ 1.4 million according to the latest supply news. Even at the end of 2021, US credits for Wolfhounds radio surveillance systems approached $ 874,000.

Night vision devices: The total cost of the 16,000 night vision goggles alone could reach $ 80 million. Individually, the high-tech glasses cost between $ 2,742 and $ 5,000 per DLA. Other equipment like image intensifiers are typically priced at $ 10,747 each; however, sophisticated models can fetch $ 66,000 each.

Radio equipment: the cost of the equipment adds up – transceivers ($ 210,651); sophisticated radios ($ 61,966); amplifiers ($ 28,165); repeater sets ($ 28,527); and deployment kits to identify frequencies go up to $ 18,908.

However, if the Taliban do not have the expertise or the technology to program the equipment, it will quickly become obsolete. Or it could be sold to other countries that wanted to acquire American technology.

And there are more … years 2017 to 2019

From 2017 to 2019, the United States also gave Afghan forces 7,035 machine guns, 4,702 Humvees, 20,040 hand grenades, 2,520 bombs and 1,394 grenade launchers, according to the since-suppressed 2020 SIGAR report, reported by The Hill.

An unnamed official told Reuters that the current intelligence assessment was that the Taliban had taken control of more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including American Humvees, and up to 40 planes that could include UH-60 Black Hawks, Scout attack helicopters and ScanEagle military drones.

Crucial quote

“We obviously don’t have a complete picture of where every piece of defense material went, but a good deal of it certainly fell into the hands of the Taliban,” the House’s national security adviser said on Tuesday. Blanche, Jake Sullivan. Hill reported. “And of course, we don’t have a feeling that they’re going to hand it over to us easily at the airport.”


Republican senators demanded that there be a full tally of US military equipment left in Afghanistan.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, lawmakers said they were “horrified” to see photos of Taliban militants grabbing military equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters.

“It is unacceptable that high-tech military equipment paid for by US taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” lawmakers said in the letter. “Securing US assets should have been a top priority for the US Department of Defense before announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Further reading

Planes, guns, night vision goggles: the new war chest made in the United States by the Taliban

Billions of US weapons seized by the Taliban

US military equipment left in Afghanistan needs full accounting, GOP senators say

Billions spent on Afghan army ultimately benefited the Taliban

To note:

Purchase prices can vary widely over a 20-year period. Factors influencing prices include when the item was purchased, quantities, and other acquisition details.

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