WASHINGTON AP — Once the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s airfield in Kandahar on Friday, it didn’t take long for photos to appear on social media showing Taliban fighters posing with military helicopters such as U.S.-made Black Hawks and Soviet-made Mi-17s.
After the group took over Mazar-i-Sharif airport this weekend, more photos followed, this time of Taliban members standing next to an A-29 attack plane and MD-530 utility helicopter.
Now, with Afghanistan under Taliban control, the question is no longer whether the organization will gain access to the Afghan air force’s inventory of U.S.-provided planes and helicopters, but what it plans to do with them — and what the U.S. military can do in response.
The Afghan air force operated a total of 211 aircraft, with about 167 planes and helicopters available for use as of June 30, according to a July report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
So far, the Defense Department has not confirmed how many of those aircraft have been captured by the Taliban, how many of that sum are still operable and how many aircraft have been safely flown by Afghan air force pilots to relative safety in neighboring countries.
During a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, the Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations, said he had no information about whether the U.S. military would take steps to prevent aircraft or other military equipment from being captured or used by the Taliban.