As the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, many social media users had viral posts claiming the Taliban’s arsenal was worth as much as $85 billion, suggesting they had taken over U.S. military equipment.
Former President Donald Trump amplified the falsehood in a statement Monday, writing that “ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States, and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost.”
Those numbers are significantly inflated, according to reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which oversees American taxpayer money spent on the conflict.
According to the Associated Press, the $85 billion figure resembles a number from a July 30 quarterly report from SIGAR, which outlined that the U.S. has invested about $83 billion to build, train and equip Afghan security forces since 2001. Yet that funding included troop pay, training, operations and infrastructure along with equipment and transportation over two decades.
“We did spend well over $80 billion in assistance to the Afghan security forces,” said Dan Grazier, a defense policy analyst at the Project on Government Oversight. “But that’s not all equipment costs.” Only about $18 billion of that sum went toward equipping Afghan forces between 2002 and 2018, a June 2019 SIGAR report showed.
Even if the percentage from a 2017 GAO report, stating at 29% of dollars spent funded equipment between 2005 and 2016, held to 2021, it would mean the U.S. has spent about $24 billion on equipment and transportation for Afghan forces since 2001. Grazier added that much of the equipment would be obsolete.
American troops have previously scrapped unwanted gear and recently disabled dozens of Humvees and aircraft so they couldn’t be used again, according to Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command.
Still, while no one knows for sure the value of the Taliban’s arsenal, defense officials have confirmed it is significant. Just not $80 billion.