Taliban 'may launch strikes with 48 seized aircraft by threatening pilots & US weapons could be used in terror attacks'
THE Taliban may be able to fly the aircraft seized during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan by threatening American trained pilots, according to one expert.
But Jason Campbell, the former director for Afghanistan in the Office of the US Secretary of Defense for Policy, told The Sun the "biggest concern" is that the small arms and weapons left behind get into the wrong hands.
Campbell, a researcher at Rand Corporation, said: "There is a worry if the arms, rifles, grenades and radios get into the wrong hands.
"They definitely represent an upgrade from what the Taliban have now.
"And they could also permeate the porous Afghan border.
"There are legitimate concerns that these small arms find their way out and could cause big problems [for the US and its allies].
"The biggest concern is the proliferation of these small arms and grenades to the wrong groups. They could lead to some pretty negative effects.
"And the worry is that these small arms will then continue to cycle for years to come."
Al-Qaeda has already welcomed the Taliban’s "victory" in Afghanistan "for breaking America's back".
The terrorists' statement came amid fears the country could be the base for another 9/11-style attack.
And noting the threat of a resulting terror attack Campbell said: "Without an intelligence presence on the ground, the ability to detect emerging threats will be limited."
There are also fears that US trained pilots — who previously worked for the toppled regime — will now be forced to serve the Taliban as it cements its grip on power.
Campbell told the BBC: "They will threaten them and their families."
Speaking to The Sun he added: "We need to think about what kind of coercive and forceful tactics they might use to get those who were in the Afghan army to fly the aircraft."
'HUGE LOSS' FOR THE US
But Campbell believes the specialized training and maintenance required to operate the aircraft left behind leaves their "long-term prospects of using them looking bleak."
As for the effect the withdrawal will have on relations with China, Russia and Iran, Campbell believes they could be "profound."
He said with those nations could potentially "benefit from the new political order in Kabul", adding: "Depending on what transpires, this may prove to be a huge loss for the United States."
Military equipment including US Black Hawks and attack planes were left behind in the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
And Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon was forced to admit: "We are aware there is likely a large amount of equipment provided to Afghan forces now in Taliban hands."
Footage from earlier in the week appeared to show the Taliban flying a US-made Black Hawk chopper.
Responding to the video, freelance journalist Bilal Sarwaryays told Reuters: "The Afghan pilot…was trained in the US and UAE…he confirmed to me that he flew the Black Hawk helicopter."
And on Wednesday a second Black Hawk helicopter escorted a "victory" parade from above with the Taliban flag draped from its side.
In a humiliating turn of events the Taliban paraded dozens of green Humvees and armoured fighting vehicles and covered them in the white and black flag.
More than 200,000 firearms were donated to the Afghan army, including M24 snipers and assault weapons, according to a Department of Defense report.
The Taliban now has access to billions of pounds worth of that equipment, including identification devices that could alarmingly help them identify Afghans who helped coalition forces – many of whom remain stranded in Kabul.
The US has also funded more than 20,000 Humvees and 40,000 light tactical vehicles, including Ford pickup trucks, to Afghan defence forces.
But for Campbell the armored vehicles left behind are less of a concern.
He added: "The vehicles are really for niche use – they are bulky and they use a lot of fuel. There are easier ways to go from A to B.
"But there is a propaganda value."
Figures reported by the DailyMail.com show that up to 48 aircraft could now be in the hands of the Taliban; it is unclear if they are planes or helicopters and if they are operational.
Georgetown University and US air force veteran Jodi Vittori said there is "no immediate danger of the Taliban using these aircraft."
She says they currently lack the expertise to make them operational.
ACCESS TO EQUIPMENT
Despite that the Taliban celebrated the withdrawal of the US on Monday with fireworks and gunfire.
They have also been pictured posing for snaps in abandoned fighter jets.
And they held their "victory" parade in Kandahar on Wednesday.
According to US Republican Congressman Jim Banks the group now has "more Black Hawk helicopters than 85 per cent of the countries in the world".
"Due to the negligence of this administration, the Taliban now has access to $85billion (£62billion) worth of military equipment," he said.
Video from earlier in the week shows row after row of tanks and other armoured vehicles parked up and being inspected by the fanatics after being captured when they defeated government forces.
LAST SOLDIER LEAVES
Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, had claimed then that some of that equipment had been “de-militarized" – making them inoperable.
US Army Major General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, was pictured on a night-vision camera boarding a transport plane just before midnight on Monday.
The XVIII Airborne Corps called him the last soldier to leave Kabul after America's longest war.
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