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For sale now: US-supplied weapons in Afghan gun shops

in the chaos of US military withdrawal And the Taliban took over this summer, with thousands of American-made weapons and tons of military equipment confiscated by militants as government military bases surrendered or were dismantled.

According to arms dealers in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, with the Taliban in power, more American weapons and military goods are now openly sold in stores by Afghan gun dealers who have supplied guns, ammunition to government soldiers and Taliban fighters. – Had to pay for gunpowder and other materials.

In interviews, three arms dealers in Kandahar said dozens of Afghans have set up arms shops in the south of Afghanistan, selling American-made pistols, rifles, grenades, binoculars and night-vision goggles. equipment was Originally provided to Afghan security forces Under an American training and aid program that cost American taxpayers more than $83 billion during the two decades of war.

During the insurgency, the Taliban eagerly Requisitioned US supplied weapons and gear. But now much of that weapon is being sold to Afghan entrepreneurs because Taliban demand has waned with the end of the war, gun traders said. He says that many gun dealers have smuggled weapons to Pakistan, where there is a strong demand for American-made weapons.

The loss of tens of millions of dollars in American-made weapons and gear is another costly consequence of an unsuccessful, 20-year mission to Afghanistan. It ended in chaos and turmoil when the Taliban captured Kabul on 15 August after crushing an Afghan army built, trained and funded by the United States.

In recent years, the United States has provided the Afghan military with a vast array of weapons and vehicles, including M4 carbines, rockets, A-29 light attack aircraft, Humvees, and abundant ammunition for assault rifles and machine guns , as pointed out in a recent report. by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. For the last two fiscal years ending in June, the amount spent on the Afghan military totaled $2.6 billion.

The Pentagon acknowledged on Monday that a large number of US-supplied weapons remain in Afghanistan.

“Since 2005, the US military has provided the Afghan national defense and security forces with many thousands of small arms, ranging from pistols to medium machine guns,” Defense Department spokesman Major Rob Lodwick said in a statement to New York. Times.

After the fall of the Afghan government in August, Lodwick said, “We believe that the vast majority of these weapons are probably now in the hands of the Taliban.”

A Taliban fighter with an American assault rifle guards a US armored transport vehicle at Kabul airport on August 31, 2021. (Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)

In Congressional testimony last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin said the more sophisticated weapons being used by US troops in Afghanistan had been removed when the last troops left in late August. Pentagon officials said advanced weapons provided to Afghan security forces, such as helicopters and airplanes, were disabled before the Americans left.

But the Taliban denied that any of these weapons were entering the market.

In an interview with The Times, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said the weapons were not for sale. “I completely deny it; our fighters can’t be so reckless.” “Not a single person can sell or smuggle bullets in the market.”

He added that US-made weapons previously captured during the war “are all listed, verified and all are safe and secure under the Islamic Emirate for future military.” (The Taliban refers to its government as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.)

However, other Taliban data has confirmed that a huge wave of US weapons has hit the market.

The Taliban flag flies over the US military’s Humvee at the airport in Kabul on September 3, 2021. (Jim Hulebrock/The New York Times)

This summer, troop of US-supplied weapons were either stolen and sold by Afghan security forces, or confiscated by the Taliban as they negotiated a wholesale surrender in which soldiers and police exchanged such weapons in exchange for the Taliban. and handed over the equipment, which promised to spare their lives. At other times, uniforms, weapons and gear were simply left by Afghan soldiers and police as they deserted.

Some soldiers and police sold their arms and ammunition before surrendering. Weapons dealers will have to pay about $1,200 for a US-service Beretta M9 handgun, gun dealers said – far more than a soldier’s monthly salary, at a time when many cops and soldiers need ammunition, food or more. Water was not being paid for or re-supplied with.

American M4 carbines sell for about $4,000, dealers said, especially if equipped with a laser sight or an under-barrel grenade launcher. In contrast, a Kalashnikov rifle sells for about $900, dealers said, and a Russian-made rocket-propelled grenade launcher sells for about $1,100. Pistols supplied by NATO forces to Afghan police officers sell for about $350. The dealers said that almost all their transactions are in Pakistani rupees and cash.

Esmatullah, a gun trader, said he had opened a shop in Kandahar province about eight months ago, when the Taliban took control of the immediate area. Before that, he said, he worked as a roaming gun dealer, visiting government bases to buy arms and ammunition from soldiers and police desperate for cash and fed up with a government in Kabul. She believed that he had abandoned them.

“We used to work as a mobile team,” he said. “We will meet many government soldiers and officials to buy weapons from them. After that we will take those weapons to the Taliban and sell them or someone who will pay us a good price.”

Separately, the Taliban allowed their fighters to sell some of the small arms they confiscated upon surrender or elimination of the hideout, the gun traders said. The rest of the confiscated weapons were handed over to Taliban commanders, whose fighters fired American-made M4 assault carbines and rode American Humvees as they marched across the country this summer.

Today traders say that their customers are Afghan entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens. These Afghans are buying iconic American-made weapons either to resell in Pakistan, for self-defense or to settle long-standing personal or tribal conflicts.

Taliban fighter in Afghanistan Panjshiro Valley on September 14, 2021, near which additional arms and ammunition have been found. (Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)

“American-made weapons are in great demand, because they work so well and people know how to use them,” said a second gun dealer in Kandahar, speaking on condition of anonymity, because he feared that The Taliban will close their shop.

The merchant said he had sold dozens of American-made pistols, rifles, ammunition and two-way radios since opening his shop about three months ago.

A third gun dealer in Kandahar, who asked not to be identified because the Taliban had warned him not to speak to the news media, said dealers sold large weapons such as anti-aircraft guns to the Taliban this summer Were. Now, he said, they also sell American-made M4s and .50-caliber machine guns as well as weapons manufactured by other countries, including rocket launchers and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

“The first choice is American-made, even though it is slightly more expensive than Russian-made,” said the trader. “Light weapons such as guns and pistols are in great demand, as they are easy to transport and carry.”

Mullah Basir Akhund, a former Taliban commander based in Kandahar, said he helped the militants negotiate for the surrender of security forces in the province. The Taliban often sent village elders or other trusted people to negotiate surrender. Akhund said the area was flooded with American-made weapons due to the collapse of government bases.

“There are many shops and arms smugglers roaming around in Kandahar these days. “These people have always been there to buy weapons, especially during a transition period like this where it’s easy to buy new weapons.”

 

He said he had recently introduced a Pakistani arms dealer to a gun dealer in Kandahar. He said the dealer told him he was seeking pistols, rifles, night vision goggles, ammunition and other US-provided military gear.

Akhund said that the Pakistani dealer sells cars from a showroom in Pakistan. But the man’s most lucrative business, he said, focused on selling American-made weapons purchased in Afghanistan.

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