Pentagon 'not concerned' by gloating Taliban seizing abandoned US helicopters

TOPSHOT - A Taliban fighter sits in the cockpit of an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021, after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country to end a brutal 20-year war -- one that started and ended with the hardline Islamist in power. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
A Taliban fighter sits in the cockpit of an Afghan air force aircraft at the airport in Kabul after the US evacuation. (AFP via Getty Images)

The Pentagon has insisted it is not worried about the Taliban seizing abandoned helicopters in Afghanistan following the evacuation of US troops.

Millions of dollars worth of military equipment have been left by American troops as they evacuated Kabul international airport.

Video footage and images show jubilant Taliban fighters with US helicopters left discarded in hangars.

The Taliban has celebrated what it has called Afghanistan’s “independence” since the last US troops left the country on Monday.

But US officials have moved to allay fears the helicopters could be used by the Taliban, insisting they have been disabled.

Watch: Taliban inspect disabled US aircraft at Kabul airport

“They can’t fly them,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN.

"We made sure to demilitarise, to make unusable, all the gear that is at the airport. 

“All the aircraft, all the ground vehicles. The only thing we left operable are a couple of fire trucks and some forklifts so that the airport itself can remain more operational going forward.

"So I think we're not overly concerned about these images of them walking around.

"We did everything we could to make sure that equipment couldn't be used by them going forward.”

A Taliban member looks up standing next to a damaged helicopter at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021, after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country to end a brutal 20-year war -- one that started and ended with the hardline Islamist in power. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
A Taliban member next to a damaged helicopter at the airport in Kabul. (AFP via Getty Images)

Taliban leaders said on Wednesday they intend to restore damage done to Kabul airport by western forces.

Senior Taliban leader Anas Haqqani told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV that the facility's operations would also resume.

The U.S. and its allies left behind aircraft and military equipment during their evacuation, but rendered much of it inoperable to prevent others from using the gear.

The Turkish government has also said that runways, towers, and terminals, including those in the civilian side of the airport, were damaged and that these needed to be repaired.

Haqqani is a Taliban commander and senior leader of the Haqqani Network militant group.

The network, based on the border with Pakistan, was accused over recent years of some of the most deadly militant attacks in Afghanistan.

Anas Haqqani, center right, claimed western forces damaged Kabul airport during their evacuation. (Getty)
Anas Haqqani, center right, claimed western forces damaged Kabul airport during their evacuation. (Getty)

On Sunday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken denied claims the US gave the Taliban a “kill list” of people who needed to be evacuated from Afghanistan.

He told NBC's Meet The Press: "The idea that we've done anything to put at further risk those that we're trying to help leave the country is simply wrong.

“And the idea that we shared lists of Americans or others with the Taliban is simply wrong.”

Politico reported last week that US military had provided a list of American citizens and green card holders and Afghan allies that they wanted to evacuate, which a number of officials said could result in the Taliban creating a “kill list”.

American troops abandoned 73 aircraft and almost 100 vehicles as they pulled out of Afghanistan ahead of the 31 August deadline set by US president Joe Biden.

The aircraft left behind included MD-530 helicopters, used for close attack and reconnaissance, and A-29 light attack planes.

Seven CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopters, used to evacuate US embassy staff, have also been abandoned.

The cost of just one A-29 has been estimated at more than $10m (£7.3m).

The US said 70 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) were also disabled and left behind – one costs between $500,000 and $1m.

A further 27 military Humvees were also abandoned.

However, most of the 167 aircraft, including Black Hawk helicopters, that had been used by the Afghan armed forces at the end of June are now under Taliban control.

On Tuesday, Biden defended the US pullout, saying: "I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit.

“The war in Afghanistan is now over.

“We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago – and we stayed another decade.”

TOPSHOT - Taliban fighters sit in the cockpit of an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021, after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country to end a brutal 20-year war -- one that started and ended with the hardline Islamist in power. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Taliban fighters sit in the cockpit of an Afghan air force aircraft at the airport in Kabul. (AFP via Getty Images)
A Taliban fighter (L) takes a picture of a damaged Afghan Air Forces MD 530 helicopter with his mobile phone near the hangar at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021, after the US has pulled all its troops out of the country to end a brutal 20-year war -- one that started and ended with the hardline Islamist in power. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
A Taliban fighter takes a picture of a damaged Afghan air force MD-530 helicopter with his mobile phone. (AFP via Getty Images)

The Home Office announced on Wednesday that Afghans who worked with the British government and military will be able to move to the UK permanently.

The plan, dubbed Operation Warm Welcome, will help Afghans rebuild their lives in the UK.

The UK has already evacuated more than 15,000 people since 13 August.

More than 100 councils have come forward to help families find homes, with more than 2,000 places already confirmed, the Home Office said.

Boris Johnson said: “We owe an immense debt to those who worked with the armed forces in Afghanistan and I am determined that we give them and their families the support they need to rebuild their lives here in the UK.”

Watch: Helicopters destroyed by US troops before evacuating Kabul