Photo: Dr. Bradnee Chambers ©Aydin Bahramlouian - Photo: 2021

Armed with Captured US Weapons & Suicide Bombers, Taliban Battles to Retake Afghanistan

By Thalif Deen

NEW YORK (IDN) — As the US pulls out of Afghanistan after a 20-year occupation, the Afghans have once again ousted one of their ruling powers, first the Brits, then the Soviets, both in a bygone era, and now the Americans.

The triple debacle may well be reflected in an old adage attributed to Afghans: “You have the watches, we have the time.”

But the ultimate victims are Afghan civilians who have been caught in cross-fires for decades under military forces unleashed by three permanent members of the UN Security Council.

At the time of writing, the New York Times reported August 12 that the Pentagon was moving over 3,000 Marines and soldiers into Afghanistan to help evacuate most of the American Embassy and U.S. citizens in Kabul, as the Biden administration braces for a possible collapse of the Afghan government within the next 30 days, according to administration and military officials.

Back in 1975, one of the most stunning photos was the evacuation of Americans by helicopters from the US embassy compound in Saigon after the fall of Vietnam. Afghanistan is being described as President Joe Biden’s Saigon.

With the capture of nine provinces and three major cities, including Kandahar, Herat and Lashkar Gah, the Taliban has virtually taken control of the country.

After most of the US troops pulled out of the country in stages over the last couple of months, only 650 were remaining to protect the American Embassy in Kabul. The 4,000 embassy civilian staff include 1,400 US citizens.

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, under President George W. Bush, with the aim of hunting anti-American terrorist groups and toppled the then Taliban government.

The current battle is between an estimated 75,000 Taliban fighters versus more than 300,000 Afghan forces armed and trained by the US.

As a fighting force, Taliban is set to capture the besieged country without the traditional weapons of war, including sophisticated fighter planes, combat helicopters, missiles, or warships, which are an integral part of most militaries engaged in conflicts.

A ragtag guerrilla force, the Taliban depended heavily on small arms, AK-47 assault rifles, artillery, improvised explosive devices (IEDs)—and multiple suicide bombers.

The US-trained Afghan military forces, armed with US weapons, were virtually beaten to a standstill or fled their posts.

According to a report in Newsweek, the Taliban used American rifles to gun down Afghan soldiers and deployed explosive-laden American Humvees to bomb checkpoints. Ironically, the Taliban arsenal included captured US weapons, ammunition, uniforms, fuel, and other vital military equipment.

Asked about Taliban’s military strength, Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher, Arms and Military Expenditure Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) told IDN: “As far as I know, the Taliban has no Air Force and operates at best light armoured vehicles”.

“It’s a classic insurgent or guerilla force”, he pointed out, mainly armed with small arms and light weapons that is able to run over a government army that has been stocked up with an array of US equipment, mainly light arms and relatively basic major arms.

Wezeman said the Afghan government forces have no tanks and jet fighters, their heaviest weapons are light armoured vehicles and a few light armed planes and helicopters. (

“There is a formal UN Security Council arms embargo on the Taliban and as far as I remember the reports by the relevant UN panel have never indicated that anyone has violated that embargo in any significant way or even at all,” he said.

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has warned that failure to stem the rising violence and human rights violations is having disastrous consequences for the people of Afghanistan.

“We know that urban warfare results in scores of civilians being killed. We have seen it before, too many times”.

“Parties to the conflict must stop fighting to prevent more bloodshed. The Taliban must cease their military operations in cities. Unless all parties return to the negotiating table and reach a peaceful settlement, the already atrocious situation for so many Afghans will become much worse,” she said on August 12.

Bachelet also urged all States to use their influence – bilaterally and multilaterally—to bring the hostilities to an end.

A $1.3 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan remains just 38 per cent funded, leaving an almost $800 million shortfall.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, has expressed his “extreme concern at the deteriorating situation in the country”. More than 1,000 people have been killed or injured due to indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Helmand, Kandahar, and Herat provinces in the last month alone, he said.

Griffiths also echoed calls by the UN Secretary-General and members of the Security Council strongly condemning attacks against civilians and called for a ceasefire. He reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, including their responsibility to protect civilians and ensure access for humanitarian organizations to reach people in need.

Griffiths underscored that fighting across the country, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people since 2009 when UN reporting began, needs to stop. People have suffered enough, he said. [IDN-InDepthNews — 13 August 2021]

Photo: The Pul-e-Kheshti Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: UNAMA/Freshta Dunia

Thalif Deen is a former Director, Foreign Military Markets at Defense Marketing Services; Senior Defense Analyst at Forecast International; and military editor Middle East/Africa at Jane’s Information Group. He is also author of the recently-released satire on the United Nations titled “No Comment – and Don’t Quote me on That.”—which is available on Amazon. The link to Amazon via the author’s website follows:

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