Various

What Equipment did the U.S. Leave to the Taliban, and has the Afghan Economy Changed since 2001?

20 September, 2021

The withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan was accompanied by the spread of several false and manipulative claims in the Georgian media. Namely:

  1. The U.S. has left the equipment worth 85 billion USD to the Taliban.
  2. The Afghan economy has not improved since 2001.
  3. The production of opium has increased 100 times since the U.S. intervention.

The claims that the Afghan economy has not changed since 2001, remaining at the same level, and that opium production in Afghanistan has increased a hundredfold following the U.S. intervention are false. The allegation that the U.S. has left military equipment worth 85 billion USD to the Taliban is manipulative.

  • Manipulation: The U.S. has left the military equipment worth of 85 billion USD

The pro-Russian politician, Levan Vasadze, and the host of the Vasadze-affiliated channel Alt-Info, Giorgi Kardava, have proclaimed that after the withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan, the Taliban has obtained military equipment worth several billion dollars.

 

Levan Vasadze, ERI: “The U.S. has left military equipment worth 85 billion USD to Taliban, including 22 174 light armoured vehicles, 634 heavy armoured vehicles, 155 MxxPro anti-mine vehicles, 169 M113 armoured infantry vehicles, 42 000 Pick-up medium-sized vehicles, 64 363 machine guns, 8 000 trucks, 162 043 radios, 16 035 night vision devices, 358 Firearms, 126 295 pistols, 176 artillery pieces.”

Giorgi Kardava, Host at Alt-Info: “The U.S. has spent trillions in Afghanistan… lost thousands of lives and even left military equipment worth 85 billion USD to the Taliban.”

The claim that the U.S. has left military equipment worth 85 billion USD is manipulative. First and foremost, most parts of the equipment were gifted to the Afghan army, and it was obtained by the Taliban only after they had managed to take control of the vast majority of the Afghan territory.

In addition, the representatives of the U.S. military forces have stressed that a significant part of the equipment is in a condition that it cannot be utilized in the future. According to General Kenneth F. McKenzie, before leaving Hamid Karzai Airport, they destroyed about 70 anti-aircraft mines, 23 armoured vehicles and 73 aircraft. Some of the equipment was flown by Afghan servicemen to neighbouring countries, including 22 military planes and 24 helicopters to Uzbekistan.

Military experts argue about how effectively the Taliban will be able to use captured military equipment. Even in the case of acquiring the necessary personnel to master the equipment, the maintenance and repair without the special equipment and parts previously supplied to the Afghan army by the U.S. would be impossible.

As for the overall value of the equipment, FactCheck.org has fact-checked the claim of the former U.S. president that the Taliban has acquired military equipment of 85 billion USD. According to the organization, such an estimate is exaggerated, and the named value, about 82.9 billion USD, is actually the total amount spent on the Afghan Security Forces Fund since the start of the war in 2001, and only part of it (about 18 billion USD) was spent on weaponry, some of which were damaged or destroyed. A Pentagon spokesman said the process of destroying the weapons had been going on for several years. General Mark Kelly even stressed that the equipment that ended up in the hands of the Taliban is not up to date and does not contain sensitive technology, which would pose a particular threat to the U.S. military in a possible future confrontation.

Not to mention, Levan Vasadze has been disseminating additional manipulative information about the costs of Georgian involvement in the NATO missions in Afghanistan.

Levan Vasadze, “Unity, Essence, Hope:” Our boys shed blood in Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of the Georgian budget. One of our experts counted our officers and soldiers in these two operations and converted their costs into American salaries, insurance, medical care, equipment and equipment, not counting their pensions. It turned out that the same number of soldiers would cost the Americans about 10 billion USD."

The aforementioned calculation was carried out by the “Georgian Development Laboratory” chief, Giorgi Gogava, claiming that Georgia was the one helping the U.S. and not vice versa. Nonetheless, his calculation was flawed in several directions. For instance, it ignored that part of the cost involved in the missions was overtaken by NATO members and funded the training programs. For more formation about the topic, see the articles of “Myth Detector:”

  • Disinformation: Afghan Economy has not improved since 2001

Gulbaat Rtskhiladze, the director of the Eurasian Union, proclaimed that the Afghan economy is at the same level as in 2001.  

Gulbaat Rtskhiladze, Eurasian Union: “The country's [Afghanistan] economy is at the same level as it was in 2001, even though “aid” worth 10 billion USD was flowing into Afghanistan every year. In fact, this money was a source of great corruption and a brazen deception of Western society itself. Unscrupulous stakeholders, the military, and politicians made big money from the war in Afghanistan. We also know such "aids" in Georgia, when a large part of the money allocated to us is returned to the Western bureaucracy and firms, and the other part is used by the local bureaucracy and the non-governmental sector. "

The claim is false. For comparison, Afghanistan's GDP in 2001 was USD 2.4 billion, with a GDP per capita of 114 USD. According to the most recent data of 2020, Afghanistan's GDP exceeded 19.8 billion USD. This year, GDP per capita was 508 USD.

Year

1999

2000

2001

2007

2010

2013

2017

2019

2020

GDP

$2.73 Bln

$3.5 Bln

$2.4 Bln

$9.7 Bln

$15.8 Bln

$20.1 Bln

$19.5 Bln

$18.8 Bln

$19.8 Bln

GDP Per Capita

$135

$170

$114

$359

$543

$637

$519

$507

$508

Source: worldbank.org

Gulbaat Rtskhiladze even drew a parallel with the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and labelled it as more dignified compared to that of the U.S.:

Gulbaat Rtskhiladze, Eurasian Union: “The Soviet army, unlike American troops, has not left Afghanistan in chaos and hopelessness.”

In reality, the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afganistan was followed by a civil war, the first phase of which ended with the overthrow of the Soviet-backed government in 1992, although the war between various opposing groups continued until the U.S. military operation in the country in 2001.

The war has resulted in the death of 14,453 Soviet soldiers, more than 90,000 mujahideen, and an estimated 562,000 to 2 million peaceful Afghans. As of April 2021, U.S. military intervention had killed 2,448 US troops, 3,846 contractors, 66,000 Afghan security forces, 1,144 NATO and 47 Allied peacekeepers, 47,245 Afghan civilians, 51,191 members of the Taliban and other militant groups.

Before the Soviet Intervention in 1978, the estimated population of Afghanistan was 13 million. The USSR had left the country in 1989 when Afghanistan's population was reduced to 11.8 million. For comparison, in 2000, the population of Afghanistan was 20.7 million, while in 2020, 38.9 million.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, military spending in Afghanistan from October 2001 to December 2020 amounted to 825 billion USD, with an additional 130 billion USD spent on reconstruction projects. With the withdrawal of the U.S. country, these projects have become a target of criticism in terms of the appropriateness of the funds and the results achieved. It is noteworthy, however, that these projects have brought tangible changes in various directions. For example, infant mortality in Afghanistan has dropped by 50% since the fall of the Taliban regime, while the number of literate girls has reached  37%.

  • Disinformation: Following the U.S. intervention, the production of opium in Afghanistan has increased a hundredfold. 

Giorgi Kardava, the host of Alt-Info’s program “Alt-Analytica,” has proclaimed that the production of opium in Afghanistan has increased a hundredfold since 2001:

Giorgi Kardava, Host at “Alt-Info:” “Of course, with Americans' entry, opium production has increased a hundredfold ... The Taliban was restricting it. The agriculture in Afghanistan revolves around growing this poppy, from which heroin is then made and exported. To count the full value of the drug business, we are talking about billions, that is all, we are not talking about some grand numbers, billions, nothing more."

The claim voiced by Giorgi Kardava is disinformation. According to a 2020 UN Office on Drugs and Crime report, Afghanistan has produced about 6,300 tonnes of opium in 2020. According to the same report, before the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, the country produced up to 3,300 tonnes in 2000 and 4,600 tonnes in 1999. The largest percentage of opium production was attributed to the Taliban-controlled province of Helmand. The Taliban banned opium production only in 2000, after which production plummeted to 185 tonnes in 2000, but to claim that opium production in Afghanistan had increased 100-fold since the U.S. invasion is false, as thousands of tons of opium were produced in the country even before the U.S. intervention. In 1999-2000, it accounted for 70-79% of the total world production. 

The Kremlin media have repeatedly spread exaggerated and misleading information of similar content in the past. For more details, see “Myth Detector” Material:


By Keti Khutsishvili


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