U.S. Weapons, Now for Sale in Afghan Gun Shops

Within the chaos of the American navy withdrawal and the Taliban takeover this summer time, 1000’s of American-made weapons and tons of navy gear had been seized by the militants as authorities navy bases surrendered or had been overrun.

With the Taliban in energy, extra American weapons and navy equipment are actually being overtly offered in retailers by Afghan gun sellers who paid authorities troopers and Taliban fighters for weapons, ammunition and different matériel, in response to weapons sellers in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan.

In interviews, three weapons sellers in Kandahar mentioned that dozens of Afghans have arrange weapons retailers in Afghanistan’s south, promoting American-made pistols, rifles, grenades, binoculars and night-vision goggles. The gear was initially supplied to the Afghan safety forces underneath a U.S. coaching and help program that value American taxpayers greater than $83 billion via 20 years of struggle.

Through the insurgency, the Taliban eagerly sought out American-supplied weapons and equipment. However now a lot of that weaponry is being offered to Afghan entrepreneurs as a result of Taliban demand has eased with the tip of fight, the gun retailers mentioned. They are saying that many gun sellers have smuggled the weapons to Pakistan, the place demand for American-made weapons is powerful.

The lack of tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in American-made weapons and equipment is one more pricey consequence of the failed, 20-year mission to Afghanistan. It ended in chaos and upheaval when the Taliban seized Kabul on Aug. 15 after crushing an Afghan navy constructed, educated and funded by america.

Through the years, america supplied the Afghan navy with an enormous array of arms and automobiles, together with M4 carbines, rockets, A-29 gentle assault plane, Humvees, and copious ammunition for assault rifles and machine weapons, in response to a latest report by the Particular Inspector Basic for Afghanistan Reconstruction. For the 2 earlier fiscal years ending in June, the quantity spent on the Afghan navy totaled $2.6 billion.

The Pentagon on Monday acknowledged that a lot of American-supplied arms remained in Afghanistan.

“Since 2005, the U.S. navy has supplied the Afghan nationwide protection and safety forces with many 1000’s of small arms, starting from pistols to medium machine weapons,” Maj. Rob Lodewick, a Protection Division spokesman, mentioned in a press release to The Occasions.

After the Afghan authorities’s collapse in August, Main Lodewick mentioned, “we acknowledge that enormous numbers of those weapons are in all probability now in Taliban arms.”

In congressional testimony final week, Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin mentioned that extra refined weaponry that American troops had been utilizing in Afghanistan was eliminated when the final forces left in late August. Superior weaponry supplied to the Afghan safety forces, reminiscent of helicopters and airplanes, was disabled earlier than the People left, Pentagon officers mentioned.

However the Taliban denied that any of these weapons had been hitting the market.

In an interview with The New York Occasions, a Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, mentioned that weapons weren’t for sale. “I completely deny this; our fighters can’t be that careless,” he mentioned. “Even a single individual can not promote a bullet in the market or smuggle it.”

He added that American-made weapons beforehand captured throughout the struggle “are all listed, verified and are all saved and safe underneath the Islamic Emirate for the longer term military.” (The Taliban confer with their authorities because the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.)

Different Taliban figures, nonetheless, have confirmed {that a} large wave of American weapons has hit the market.

This summer time, troves of U.S.-supplied weapons had been both stolen and offered by Afghan safety forces, or seized by the Taliban as they negotiated wholesale surrenders in which troopers and police handed over such weapons and gear in change for Taliban guarantees to spare their lives. Different instances, uniforms, weapons and equipment had been merely deserted by Afghan troopers and police as they abandoned.

Some troopers and police offered their weapons and ammunition earlier than they negotiated their surrenders. Weapons sellers would pay about $1,200 for a single U.S.-service Beretta M9 handgun, the gun retailers mentioned — way over a soldier’s month-to-month wage, at a time when many police and troopers weren’t being paid or resupplied with ammunition, meals or water.

American M4 carbines promote for about $4,000, the sellers mentioned, particularly if geared up with a laser sight or under-barrel grenade launcher. In distinction, a Kalashnikov rifle sells for about $900, the sellers mentioned, and a Russian-made rocket-propelled grenade launcher for about $1,100. Pistols that NATO forces provided to Afghan cops promote for about $350. Virtually all their transactions are in Pakistani rupees, and in money, the sellers mentioned.

One gun service provider, Esmatullah, mentioned he opened a store in Kandahar Province roughly eight months in the past, after the Taliban seized management of the fast space. Earlier than that, he mentioned, he operated as a roving gun service provider, visiting authorities bases to purchase weapons and ammunition from troopers and police determined for money and fed up with a authorities in Kabul that they believed had deserted them.

“We used to work as a cell group,” he mentioned. “We might meet many authorities troopers and officers to purchase weapons from them. After that we’d take these weapons to the Taliban and promote it to them, or to anybody who would give us a very good value.”

Individually, the Taliban permitted their fighters to promote a number of the small arms they seized when bases surrendered or had been overrun, the gun retailers mentioned. The remainder of the confiscated weapons had been handed over to Taliban commanders, whose fighters fired American-made M4 assault carbines and rode in American Humvees once they marched throughout the nation this summer time.

Immediately, the retailers say their clients are Afghan entrepreneurs and abnormal residents. These Afghans are shopping for coveted American-made weapons both to resell in Pakistan, for self-defense or to settle longstanding private or tribal feuds.

“American-made weapons are in nice demand, as they work very properly and other people know easy methods to use them,” mentioned a second gun service provider in Kandahar, who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of he feared the Taliban would shut his store.

The service provider mentioned he had offered dozens of American-made pistols, rifles, ammunition and two-way radios since opening his store about three months in the past.

A 3rd gun service provider in Kandahar, who requested to not be recognized as a result of the Taliban had warned him to not converse to the information media, mentioned sellers had offered weapons as massive as antiaircraft weapons to the Taliban this summer time. Now, he mentioned, he offered American-made M4s and .50-caliber machine weapons, in addition to weapons manufactured by different nations, together with rocket launchers and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

“The primary selection is American-made, despite the fact that it is a bit more costly than the Russian-made,” the service provider mentioned. “Gentle weapons reminiscent of weapons and pistols are in nice demand, as they’re straightforward to move and carry.”

Mullah Basir Akhund, a former Taliban commander who lives in Kandahar, mentioned he helped the militants negotiate surrenders of safety forces in the province. The Taliban typically despatched village elders or different trusted figures to barter surrenders. The collapse of presidency bases left the world awash in American-made weapons, Mr. Akhund mentioned.

“There are various retailers and weapon smugglers roaming Kandahar lately,” he mentioned. “These individuals have all the time been there to buy weapons, notably throughout this sort of transitional interval the place it’s straightforward to purchase new weapons.”

He mentioned he just lately launched a Pakistani arms supplier to a gun service provider in Kandahar. He mentioned the supplier informed him he was looking for pistols, rifles, night-vision goggles, ammunition and different U.S.-provided navy gear.

Mr. Akhund mentioned the Pakistani supplier sells automobiles from a showroom in Pakistan. However the man’s most profitable enterprise, he mentioned, facilities on promoting American-made weapons purchased in Afghanistan.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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