US Military Equipment Left Behind in Afghanistan Now in Pakistani Taliban Hands: PM

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
September 7, 2023Asia & Pacific
US Military Equipment Left Behind in Afghanistan Now in Pakistani Taliban Hands: PM
President Arif Alvi (R) administrates oath from Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar as caretaker prime minister during a ceremony, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Aug. 14, 2023. (Pakistan President Office vis AP)

Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister claimed on Monday that U.S. military equipment left behind during the American withdrawal from Afghanistan has now made its way to the Pakistani Taliban.

The equipment is now “emerging as a new challenge” for Islamabad as it has enhanced the fighting capabilities of the Pakistani Taliban, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said.

The Pakistani Taliban have over recent months intensified their attacks on Pakistan’s security forces.

The group is not a subdivision of the Afghan Taliban, but a separate allied organization known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.

The Taliban overran Afghanistan in mid-August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final weeks of their chaotic pullout from the country after 20 years of war. Taliban forces soon overtook the U.S.-backed and insufficiently trained Afghan military and established Sharia law.

Though there is no exact information available on how much U.S. equipment was left behind, it is known that the Taliban seized U.S.-supplied firearms, ammunition, helicopters, and various kinds of modern military equipment from Afghan forces that surrendered it.

Though the TTP has been releasing statements and video clips in recent months claiming they now possess guns with laser and thermal sighting systems, Mr. Kakar did not provide any clear evidence that the TTP’s weapons were those left behind by the U.S. military, nor that there was a direct link between TTP and the Afghan Taliban.

Mr. Kakar noted that in order to tackle the challenge of the leftover equipment, there was a need to adopt a “coordinated approach.”

Mr. Kakar abstained from criticizing the Afghan Taliban. His administration has assumed the position of an interlocutor between the international community and the new rulers in Kabul, who have been ostracized for the harsh edicts they imposed since their takeover.

In June, the United Nations announced that nearly 1,100 civilians have been killed in attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over. Bombings targeting minority Shiite Muslims, including in Hazara, were reportedly on the rise. The majority of the attacks—accounting for more than 700 deaths—were carried out in Khorasan Province by an ISIS-affiliated terrorist group of Sunni Muslims.

During the press conference held at his office Monday in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, Mr. Kakar declared that Pakistani security forces would continue to fight the TTP militants “to defend our home, children, mosques, and places of worship.”

Negotiations with the militant group have, however, been ruled out, after the TTP broke off a ceasefire last November.

The 52-year-old Mr. Kakar was sworn in last month as Pakistan’s youngest prime minister. He is heading a caretaker government overseeing day-to-day affairs until the next parliamentary elections. The vote, scheduled for autumn, is likely to be delayed until at least January 2024 as Pakistan’s elections oversight body said it needs time to redraw constituencies to reflect the latest census results.

At his news conference, Mr. Kakar emphasized that all political parties will be allowed to participate in the upcoming elections, including the opposition party of the now imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We are here just to assist electoral process,” the prime minister said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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