This isn’t as big a problem as you might think

Sophisticated military equipment gifted to the Afghan National Army by British and US forces could be used by the Taliban, experts have warned.

For years, US, British and Nato forces have supplied the Afghan security forces tanks, weapons, armoured vehicles, helicopters and sensitive communications equipment so they could resist the insurgents without Western help.

However, now the Afghan National Army has been routed, huge quantities of military hardware has been found, often in pristine condition, after its soldiers fled their bases.

Equipment meant to be used against the Taliban has instead now become part of their arsenal.

Experts warned that although the equipment was of limited use without training, maintenance and spares, the Taliban could either be given help from Pakistan or they could coerce former pilots by threatening their families.

Well, yes. Except this sort of hardware requires a lot of maintenance. A lorra lot.

I even know someone, have been mildly in business with for decades, someone who supplies such spare parts and maintenance. To, actually, these very bits of kit often enough.

It’s not even that they’ll not be able to get those spare parts to do the maintenance. It’s that the economy simply won’t support their doing so. Not, even, on cost grounds. There’s simply not the depth of knowledge and skill to keep complex kit operating.

To take just the one example, to keep those helicopters in the air they need maintenance teams from the US or ex-Soviet states (depends on which bird is being talked about). Local knowledge ain’t enough.

So, those birds are gong to fly for weeks, maybe at a push months and certainly not years.

26 thoughts on “This isn’t as big a problem as you might think”

  1. I would be surprised if the software in them isn’t the key; your modern car, lorry or tractor isn’t going anywhere without the sayso of the manufacturer remotely keeping the system running. If something similar isn’t in modern military hardware I would be surprised.

  2. Eh, pretty sure anything really good will be sold to the Chinese or the Rooskies via Pakistan.

    It’s probably not the inventory of the Afghanistan army (lol) that’s interesting, the stuff the Yanks themselves left behind as they ran away might have some gems (advanced UAVs perhaps?) that engineers in Shenyang would love to poke around. The Communists managed to reverse engineer the Sidewinder missile after one got stuck in the fuselage of a Chinese Mig.

    On the lower end of the tech scale, the Taliban obviously don’t “need” tanks, but they’re not completely stupid either. The weapons windfall should make it a lot easier for them to maintain absolute control over the sandbox for the next 50 years without having to scrounge about for geriatric AK parts and ammo or ride about in tuk-tuks.

    20 years and trillions of American dollars later and the Taliban now controls a lot more territory than it did in 2001, and has modern military kit the Mujahedeen would’ve literally killed for – not bad going at all. Zardoz approves.

  3. Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    China could also surely send teams qualified in keeping planes and helicopters in the sky.

    What is to stop them using Afghanistan as their narco/terror exporting satellite?

    Or you think Biden would put his foot down, say a red line has been crossed, and don’t do it again?

  4. Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    Actually, it’s more likely Biden would put a red line down, don’t do a foot and again cross been.

  5. Surely the Afghan army and air force, who totally-didn’t-immediately-defect-to-the-Taliban, were also trained by the USA to maintain these things?

  6. Also the ANA were provided with weapons that they could operate and repair themselves. So they have Tucano aeroplanes, because propellers are easier to fix than jet turbines.

  7. One theory I have seen is that as the US has allegedly supplied weapons to Iran and Pakistan, once they get used in anger the Americans can say “nothing to do with us guv, it was the stuff the Taliban liberated”.

  8. Doesn’t this depend to a certain extent how much risk you mind taking whilst flying this sort of kit?
    To keep it all maintained as instructed may well be beyond them, but lashing things up and/or just ignoring issues until they eventually crash because of them may take longer than you expect.
    People in the 3rd world are often better at bodges than you might give them credit for, even on complex military hardware!

    Whilst the aircraft, particularly the helicopters, will be difficult to keep usable in the long term, I’d imagine that the various military vehicles and ground weaponry will be fairly easy to keep going for some time to come, which is bad news for the unfortunate Afghan civilians.

    The surprising thing to my mind is that the yanks have just abandoned this gear intact. Traditionally, fleeing armies, unless being properly routed, tend to destroy any military hardware they can’t easily carry with them. Surely the yanks could have just set most of this lot on fire if they couldn’t carry it away with them as they left…

  9. Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    ” Surely the yanks could have just set most of this lot on fire if they couldn’t carry it away with them as they left…”

    There’s environmental treaties and health and safety regulations about doing that!!!

  10. They will need maintainance engineers. I doubt they have any of their own, and getting complex tasks done under coercion is a very dubious business. Especially if you are flying it.

  11. Their new CCP pals will do the maintenance. Easy to deny and hard to prove save by implication–not good enough. And what is CCP-owned Senile Joe going to do anyway.

    The really interesting thing will be if they have captured US drones. That the Obama –and even Trump -drone strikes might henceforth be a two way transaction. Bad news. But on the bright side they might get Bliar or any former UK PM.

    Maybe watch out for local UK papers being ordered to go to exotic overseas locations. For the wedding/funeral notices. Obama just loved droning weddings etc.

  12. Argentina can’t stop it’s frigates from keeling over while in port, or submarines from randomly exploding.

    I reckon half the kit the Taliban has recently acquired will be in-operable due to accident or incompetence fairly swiftly.

    Take a look at the economy, or the demographics – the place is just borked.

  13. As Afghanistan appears to be the world’s biggest buyer of Toyota pick-ups, can’t they ask the Japs for technical help, or they’s start buying Ladas.

  14. I’ll offer an even more cynical viewpoint: the scuttle out of Afghanistan, is the opportunity for a horde of US quartermasters to balance their books and write off kit, and there’s (a) rather less hardware on the ground than the paperwork would claim, (b) good stuff got picked up, broken and busted left behind.

    But the more stories of “all that got given to the Afghans and then lost”, the easier it is to write off diffy kit and blame slack Afghan book-keeping for discrepancies (“I kept asking their colonel to sign and return the 1157, but it was always inshallah, inshallah, tomorrow…”

    In similar vein, the book value of “kit lost in Afghanistan” will be used to justify how various units bid for replacements and aren’t merely splashing money on buying new kit, ostensibly to replace “losses in Afghanistan” and “kit signed over to ANSF/ANA” but actually an opportunity to get gear they had wanted but been told “not till what you’ve got wears out or breaks”.

  15. @Ecks

    The drones are flown from portakabins in the Nevada desert and Morón near Seville and RAF Waddington. Unless they can get pilots in there they’re not strafing Blair, sadly.

  16. Bloke in North Dorset

    Why does the Taliban need that equipment?

    The local population will be living under Sharia law and all they need to maintain that are AK47s and a few of those swords they use for beheadings, and maybe a few tall building.

    There can’t be any country insane enough to even consider invading Afghanistan and the Taliban has never show any desire to attack other countries using conventional warfare, and even if they could maintain what’s been left behind it wouldn’t be enough to mount a serious campaign.

  17. So they have Tucano aeroplanes, because propellers are easier to fix than jet turbines.

    @Ottokring
    Tucano runs a jet turbine.

    The Tincan’s a tuboprop; yes, it has a propeller, but the engine is a gas turbine rather than the piston engine of aircraft of yore. It derives some thrust from the turbine’s jet outlets, under the fuselage.

  18. @BiNK

    ” Surely the yanks could have just set most of this lot on fire if they couldn’t carry it away with them as they left…”

    There’s environmental treaties and health and safety regulations about doing that!!!

    Remember, this is the same US military that ditched their entire inventory of hand grenades due to a small amount of asbestos in them. They were afraid that someone would get lung cancer decades after having a grenade tossed at them.

  19. This isn’t new. The US supplied Iran with F4E’s, Phantom jets, before the revolution.

    Their solution after Iran used them was to retire the F4E fleet and scrap every thing F4E related they had so that nothing was available on the after sales market for repairs. So as they failed, for even the simplest reasons, they just became scrap.

    Hope they didn’t leave behind anything good.

    In the meantime without the logistical support they will fail very quickly no matter what experienced personnel they have as these bits of kit need a lot of maintenance and consumable will go really quickly.

  20. The Pedant-General

    There’s definitely going to be a mindset issue. Horrific combination of:
    – poor leadership/failure to delegate
    – poorer quality troops/much less training
    – cultural issues: “insh’allah” isn’t quite enough to ensure that this maintenance problem won’t cause this aircraft to crash…

  21. Interested–shame about that . The Chinese could provide pilots but it would be a bit obvious. Though if they capture some American kids the Taliban could claim the kids video game experience was enabling them to fly drones under threat.

    Or Afghan kids for that matter. Just say you captured a load of kids of Afghans serving the Yanks. You planned to kill them but they were willing to save their lives by using their sinful video game playing experience in service to Allah by flying his drones. Who could prove otherwise?

  22. Their solution after Iran used them was to retire the F4E fleet and scrap every thing F4E related they had so that nothing was available on the after sales market for repairs . . .

    Iran still flies F4Es. There were / are too many other operators around the world to make a spares embargo successful. Turkey, Greece and South Korea still use them; Japan only retired theirs this year. The US flew F4Es until 1991 (and F4s in the form of QF4 target drones until 2016).

    The closest you can get to that story is the F-14 Tomcat, as The US and Iran were the only operators. But even then the US Navy flew F-14s through to 2006. What the US did do was shred the retired aircraft in 2007, rather than put them in the usual long term storage. This was, indeed, to stop any chance of spares reaching Iran (though Iran still acquired some). Iran’s F-14s are still officially in service.

  23. Drones are operated via satellite.

    Thit’s why they usually have a distinctive bulge- it houses a very snazzy gimballed satellite dish.

    No satellite, no drone flying. The Taliban won’t get satellites.

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