Photos: Tanks, helicopters, artillery: See what the U.S. left behind in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters from the Fateh Zwak unit, wielding American supplied weapons, equipment
A Taliban fighter from the elite Fateh Zwak unit with equipment left behind after the U.S. military withdrawal.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
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When Taliban fighters rode triumphantly into Kabul airport early Tuesday, they did so on U.S. pickup trucks, wearing American-made uniforms and brandishing American M4 and M16 rifles. Then they spent hours examining the bonanza of materiel that U.S. troops unintentionally bequeathed them in what had been the United States’ last redoubt in Afghanistan.

The group’s blindingly fast sweep through most of Afghanistan netted it billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. military equipment and weaponry given to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, which collapsed in the 11 days before the Taliban seized Kabul, the capital, on Aug. 15. Afghan soldiers who didn’t surrender shed their uniforms and gear and fled, following many of their military and political leaders.

A Taliban fighter raises a white flag in front of a military helicopter
A Taliban fighter raises the Taliban banner at Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. withdrawal on Aug. 31.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

“This is ghanima,” said one uniformed Taliban fighter: war booty. With a gloved hand, he snapped up the night-vision goggles on his ballistic helmet, looking like the very model of an Afghan soldier the U.S. had tried to help create to eliminate people like him. He walked inside a hangar and gawked with his squad mates at the U.S. Embassy helicopters gleaming under powerful overhead lights.

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For their effort, Taliban fighters reaped almost 2,000 Humvees and trucks; more than 50 armored fighting vehicles, including Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles, or MRAPs; scores of artillery and mortar pieces; more than a dozen aging but working helicopters and attack aircraft; a dozen tanks; seven Boeing-manufactured drones; and millions upon millions of bullets, according to a list compiled by the Oryx Blog, which tracks weapons used in conflicts.

Many of the items had been disabled by departing U.S. troops or are beyond the ken of Taliban fighters to operate. But a bitter result of the chaotic Western withdrawal from Afghanistan is that the very group the U.S. ousted 20 years ago is not only back in power but better equipped militarily than ever before to repel adversaries and enforce its brand of repressive rule.

Taliban fighters stand with rifles in front of a military jet
Taliban fighters stand ready as the militant group secures Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A fighter with a rifle sits inside an airport control tower
A Taliban fighter sits in an air traffic control tower at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A Taliban fighter walks with a rifle outside a fence
A Taliban fighter patrols outside the airport on Aug. 29, shortly before the U.S. withdrawal.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Taliban fighters line up with rifles in front of a fence
Taliban fighters display their weapons outside the Kabul airport on Aug. 25, before the U.S. pullout.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
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Taliban fighters ride in camouflage pickup trucks
Taliban fighters patrol the Kabul airport on Aug. 31 after the U.S. exit.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Barbed wire covers the ground with jetliners in the background
Barbed wire is left behind Aug. 31 after the U.S. withdrawal.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Taliban fighters stand beside a jetliner on the tarmac
Taliban fighters patrol the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 31.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Barbed wire in front of two vehicles
Vehicles and barbed wire form a barrier around civilian terminals at the Kabul airport on Aug. 31.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Armored vehicles at the airport
Military vehicles sit abandoned on the tarmac at the Kabul airport.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A Taliban fighter appears in the open door of a vehicle next to a white Taliban flag
A Taliban fighter patrols outside the Kabul airport on Aug. 29, before the U.S. pullout.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)