While the Taliban’s much-trumpeted upgrade has its share of shock (possibly even comedic) value, Americans would do better to remember that all those propaganda blitzes are just that: propaganda.
Speaking to The Washington Post, experts noted that while the Taliban’s new arsenal certainly carries heavy symbolic weight, it comes with a load of practical hurdles that its members are just not equipped to handle:
For the Taliban, the most useful technology could be comparatively low-tech, and not always U.S. made. The group has already shown the ability to use Russian-era D-30 howitzer artillery, for example. But the loss of so much U.S. equipment could still provide further embarrassment for Washington.
Joseph Dempsey, a research analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said that group would probably struggle to maintain or even operate most U.S. aircraft due to their technological complexity. “That said, do not be surprised if we still see some U.S. supplied types flying with new flags,” he said.
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While the Taliban certainly has experience with co-opting equipment left behind by foreign invaders, such as the 20 Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jets that formed their “air force” in the 1990s, the group will likely be able to maintain the abandoned equipment without a bevy of foreign contractors:
U.S. aircraft, for example, often require complicated maintenance that nation states struggle with. Even once supportive states that might have the know-how, such as neighboring Pakistan, may balk at a technologically advanced Taliban military.
If that military technology were to pass from the Afghan Taliban to regional insurgents like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, “that spells disaster for Pakistan,” said Madiha Afzal, a Brookings Institution scholar.
The Taliban may run into the same problems that the Afghan armed forces did: Without expensive support, often provided by foreign contractors, much of the most impressive U.S. technology will gather dust.
Last week, the Taliban released a video advertising its new “Badri 313 special forces squadron” patrolling the streets of Kabul with American-made equipment: M4 rifles, night vision goggles, advanced gunsights, etc. Despite the impressive theater on display, a western weapons expert told Agence France-Presse that the group would barely even be a match against units from India or even its neighbor, Pakistan.