- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Biden administration two weeks ago removed online reports that provided key details on the U.S. military equipment provided to Afghan security forces over the past 20 years, some of which has found its way into Taliban hands after the abrupt American withdrawal from the country last month.

Officials with the Government Accountability Office confirmed Wednesday that they took down roughly 400 studies relating to Afghanistan, including a 2017 document that provided a comprehensive list of American military gear given to Afghan security forces up until that point. GAO officials said the removal came at the direct request of the State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times.

The reports were removed, officials said, out of fear that they could be used by Afghanistan‘s new leaders to identify Afghans who had supported the U.S. war effort and target them for revenge attacks.

“Given ongoing events in Afghanistan, the State Department requested we temporarily remove and review reports on Afghanistan to protect recipients of U.S. assistance that may be identified through our reports and thus subject to retribution,” the GAO said in a statement to The Times. “We did so out of an abundance of caution” about Aug. 16, a day after the U.S.-backed government in Kabul fell to the Taliban.

GAO officials said that of those 400 reports initially removed, about 300 have been reviewed and are back online. But the 2017 study detailing all of the equipment given to Afghan forces remains under review, as do about 75 other documents related to Afghanistan, according to the GAO.

Over the past 20 years, the U.S. provided more than $82 billion in arms and training to the Afghan forces, which quickly folded in the face of a major Taliban military offensive last month.

Watchdog groups have accused the Biden administration of trying to hide the extent of U.S. weapons, vehicles and equipment now in the hands of the Taliban.

“The war in Afghanistan has always been a black box, but now we’ve reached an entirely new level,” Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of the watchdog group Open the Books, said in a statement Wednesday. “Biden officials recently directed U.S. federal agencies to scrub their websites of official reports detailing the $82.9 billion in military equipment and training provided to the Afghan security forces since 2001.”

The Taliban on Wednesday held a victory parade, showing off much of the U.S. gear it has acquired over the past several weeks. 

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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