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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Taliban – thanks to American military equipment abandoned amid the hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan – now have its very own formidable air force, with Congressman Jim Banks declaring at a press conference this week that “The Taliban now have more Black Hawk helicopters than 85 per cent of the countries in the world.”
A video making the rounds on social media this week depicts a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter – piloted by Taliban members – flying over the streets of Kandahar with what was initially reported as a body dangling underneath it, but follow-up reports indicate that THE individual hanging from the helicopter may actually have been alive and suspended by a harness as part of an effort to repair a flag.
However, a Twitter account called the “Talib Times,” which claims to be the “official news” of the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan, declared that the U.S.-made helicopter depicted in the video is now part of the Taliban’s official “air force.”
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“Our Air Force! At this time, the Islamic Emirate’s air force helicopters are flying over Kandahar city and patrolling the city,” the tweet from the now-suspended account said.
The Taliban, which quickly reasserted control of Afghanistan as President Joe Biden orchestrated a greatly-maligned troop pullout – during which 13 U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing – is now reportedly in possession of approximately $85 billion in American military equipment that was left behind in the rush to evacuate the beleaguered country.
This new video follows on the heels of another video released several days ago that appeared to depict Taliban members “test driving” another Black Hawk helicopter at Kandahar Airport, in southeastern Afghanistan.
Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, noted this week at a press conference that the extent of U.S. military equipment that has fallen into the hands of the Taliban is currently unclear, but confirmed that the Black Hawks that have been repurposed by Afghanistan’s new rulers were originally intended for the Afghan military.
“Those Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban,” Sullivan said. “They were given to the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to defend themselves at the specific request of [former] President Ghani, who came to the Oval Office and asked for additional air capability, among other things.”
At the time of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s most recent quarterly report, there were 33 Black Hawks, three C-130 Hercules aircraft, 23 A-19 light attack planes, 33 AC-208 planes, 43 MD-530 helicopters, and 32 Mi-17 Helicopters stationed in Afghanistan.
In addition, the U.S. government has supplied the Afghan National army with countless weapons and equipment over the years which may now be in Taliban hands, including 358,530 rifles, over 64,000 machine guns, 25,327 grenade launchers and 22,174 Humvees.