A large cache of weapons that fell into the hands of the Taliban when US-led NATO forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, has now made its way to Kashmir in India. Pakistan-backed terrorists operating in the region have been observed to be using M4 carbine assault rifles, M16 rifles, and other US-made arms and ammunition, reports American broadcaster NBC News.
According to the report, the majority of such weapons seized thus far have come from Pakistan-backed terror organisations Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operating in the Kashmir valley.
Experts are concerned that the enormous flow of US-made weaponry to such terror groups in the Kashmir valley may be the beginning of the weapons’ global journey.
According to Lt. Col. Emron Musavi, an Indian army spokesperson in Srinagar, terrorists from both organisations were sent to Afghanistan to fight alongside or train the Taliban. After the US-led NATO forces withdrew, “it can be safely assumed that they have access to the weapons left behind.”
However, when NBC News attempted to contact government authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan for a comment, they reportedly did not respond.
It may be recalled that last year in July, Kashmir police had said that they have seized an M4 carbine assault rifle after two JeM terrorists were neutralised in an encounter.
#AwantiporaEncounterUpdate: #Terrorist Kaiser Koka #neutralised. Identification of 2nd terrorist being ascertained. #Incriminating materials, arms & ammunition including 01 USA made rifle (M-4 Carbine), 01 pistol and other materials have been recovered.@JmuKmrPolice https://t.co/LghRwJ27sU
— Kashmir Zone Police (@KashmirPolice) July 11, 2022
Questions about the US-made weapons being used in Kashmir were again raised in January 2022, when a video of terrorists brandishing American-made guns was shared widely on social media platforms.
Major General Ajay Chandpuria, General Officer Commanding (GOC) 19 Infantry Division stationed in Baramulla of North Kashmir also said in an interview with the news agency ANI last year that high-tech weapons left behind by Americans have found their way to Jammu & Kashmir.
Lt. Gov. Manoj Sinha of Jammu and Kashmir stated the government was aware of the issue and that measures were in place to resist the infiltration of US weaponry into Kashmir. “We are monitoring the situation closely and have taken steps accordingly. Our police and army are on the job,” Sinha said on the sidelines of a news conference last year at his official residence in Srinagar.
Weighing in on the issue, Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management, a think tank in New Delhi, had said that the Pak-backed terrorist groups JeM and LeT are purchasing US weapons from the Taliban in Afghanistan, where both groups are reported to have bases, or through smugglers in Pakistan.
US left behind $7 billion of military equipment in Afghanistan during the 2021 withdrawal
Notably, a Defense Department report, published in August 2022, said that roughly $7 billion in military equipment supplied to the Afghan government was left behind in Afghanistan after the US completed its hasty withdrawal in August 2021.
A report by Forbes suggested that America has provided $83 billion worth of training and equipment to Afghan security forces since 2001. That year alone, the U.S. military aid to Afghan forces was $3 billion.
US-made weapons and equipment captured by Taliban were always likely to be sent to Pakistan, to be used against India
Soon after the withdrawal of the NATO forces, many in India raised concerns that these weapons may soon find a way into Pakistan, and then, through Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, to India, especially Jammu and Kashmir. A report by ANI quoted top military experts as saying that these weapons will first be used in Pakistan by the ISI-backed terrorist groups, and will then make their way into India.
“There are a lot of inputs suggesting that American-origin weapons, especially small arms are being sent to Pakistan. But the way terror groups have been emboldened there by the Taliban victory, there is a possibility of these weapons being used for violence in Pakistan itself,” senior military officers told ANI while discussing the Afghanistan war’s outcome.