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What happened to the military equipment left in Afghanistan?

Taliban declares victory in Afghanistan
Taliban declares victory in Afghanistan after last U.S. troops withdraw 05:25

In the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. "demilitarized," or rendered useless, nearly 170 pieces of equipment in Kabul, according to the head of U.S. Central Command. 

General Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie in a press briefing Monday announcing the completion of the withdrawal from Afghanistan said the U.S. on its way out of Hamid Karzai International Airport destroyed up to 70 MRAPs and 23 Humvees - military vehicles - and 73 aircraft. 

"Those aircraft will never fly again," McKenzie said. "They'll never be able to be operated by anyone. Most of them were non-mission capable, to begin with, but certainly they'll never be able to be flown again."

In the final days of the withdrawal, the U.S. balanced loading or destroying equipment with the need to evacuate people out of Afghanistan. Some of the equipment was taken out on flights, demilitarized at the airport, or destroyed in controlled blasts. 

Taliban special force fighters arrive inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. military's withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The Taliban were in full control of Kabul's airport on Tuesday, after the last U.S. plane left its runway, marking the end of America's longest war. Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi / AP

A U.S. official confirmed to CBS News last week that the U.S. military was conducting controlled explosions of ammunition at the airport to lighten the airlift load before departing. 

The pieces that were left behind at the airport and "demilitarized" were either "too f***ing big," like the MRAPs, according to one official, which can weigh 14 tons, or were old pieces of equipment belonging to the now toppled Afghan Air Force that were largely defunct anyway. 

A video posted on Twitter Monday showed members of the Taliban walking into the airport looking at the defunct equipment left behind. 

"I would tell you that they can inspect all they want. They can look at them, they can walk around, but they can't fly them," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told CNN in an interview Tuesday morning. 

"They can't operate them. We made sure to demilitarize - to make unusable all the gear that is at the airport," Kirby said. "The only thing we left operable are a couple of fire trucks and forklifts so that the airport can remain more operational going forward."

There is still equipment outside the airport that the Taliban took control of when it overran the Afghan Forces in the leadup to the fall of Kabul on August 15. Kirby in a recent press briefing said the U.S. military does not have an exact inventory of the equipment the Taliban now has.  

"Some [pieces of equipment] were turned over to the Afghans," Kirby said. "And we're working through right now to try to get a better sense of what that would look like." 

In the days leading up to the final withdrawal from Kabul, officials said lives were the priority. 

The U.S. military and coalition partners in Afghanistan evacuated more than 123,000 civilians in what was the largest noncombatant evacuation in the U.S. military's history. The operation ended one minute before the deadline of August 31 on the east coast. The mission ended without completing the evacuation of U.S. citizens and many vulnerable Afghans.  

"There's a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure," McKenzie said. "We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out." 

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