The U.S. military likely abandoned tens of millions of dollars worth of aircraft, armored vehicles, and sophisticated defensive systems in the rush to leave the airport in Kabul safely.
Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said some of the equipment had been “de-militarized,” essentially rendered inoperable. Troops likely used thermate grenades, which burn at temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, to destroy key components of the equipment, according to a Defense Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Some pieces of equipment were likely blown up. Another Defense official also not authorized to speak publicly, acknowledged that a blast heard last week at the airport was related to destroying equipment.
McKenzie rattled off a quick list of the items Monday during the announcement of the end of the 20-year involvement in Afghanistan, America’s longest war:
As many as 70 MRAPs, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, that are built to withstand blasts from improvised explosive devices. They have been credited by the Pentagon with saving the lives and limbs of thousands of troops. They cost about $1 million apiece.
They left behind 27 Humvees, light tactical vehicles that were replaced by MRAPs in Iraq and Afghanistan after they proved vulnerable to IED attacks. A Humvee’s price tag was less than a third of an MRAP.
On the airstrip, the military left 73 aircraft. McKenzie didn’t specify the type, whether it was a helicopter or fixed-wing.
“Those aircraft will never fly again,” he said. Pentagon officials acknowledged, and photos showed, that the soldiers operated Apache attack helicopters at the airport. A new one costs more than $30 million.
Counter-Rocket, artillery, and mortar systems
McKenzie didn’t specify how many Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar system units, which at $10 million apiece detect and shoot down incoming rockets and artillery and mortar rounds, were left behind. But he did say they were kept until the end to ensure that the airfield was defended from rocket attacks such as the one launched Monday.
“Certainly, our objective was not to leave them with any equipment, but that is not always an option when you are looking to retrograde and move out of a war zone,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
McKenzie stressed that the equipment would be of no use in combat. But they will likely be displayed by the Taliban as trophies of their decades-long fight to retake their country.