Biden administration won’t launch Afghanistan airstrikes during evacuations, official tells Fox News
Clarion national security analyst Ryan Mauro joins 'Fox & Friends First' and gives his assessment on what the future of Afghanistan looks like
A U.S. official told Fox News there is "no chance" of airstrikes on American-made military equipment while evacuations in Afghanistan are underway.
The military option – which has not yet been ruled out – comes amid concerns that the aircraft, vehicles and weaponry could be used to kill Afghan civilians or fall into the hands of militant groups and U.S. adversaries such as the Islamic State, Russia and China, current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.
Officials have said there is a fear that launching airstrikes against the equipment would provoke the Taliban at a time when the U.S. is still trying to evacuate people out of Kabul’s airport.
"Everything that hasn't been destroyed is the Taliban's now," one U.S. official told the news agency.
Military vehicles transferred by the U.S. to the Afghan National Army are seen in February 2021. (Afghanistan Ministry of Defense/Reuters) (Reuters)
Past videos have emerged showing Taliban fighters inspecting lines of vehicles and opening crates of firearms, communications gear and drones during their blitz of Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
Another U.S. official, citing a recent intelligence assessment, told Reuters that the Taliban are suspected to have captured more than 2,000 armored vehicles, such as U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft, possibly including UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
"We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces," Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who is the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters. "This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies."
The current and former officials that spoke to Reuters also said – despite the ongoing concerns – that the U.S.-provided aircraft captured by the Taliban requires extensive training to fly and need frequent maintenance.
"Ironically, the fact that our equipment breaks down so often is a life-saver here," one official remarked.
The more immediate concern appears to be some of the equipment that is easier to use, such as night-vision goggles, Reuters reports.
Since 2003, the U.S. has given Afghan forces more than 600,000 infantry weapons including M16 assault rifles, 162,000 pieces of communications equipment and 16,000 night-vision goggles, it adds.
"The ability to operate at night is a real game-changer," a congressional aide told Reuters.
Fox News has reached out to the State Department for comment.