A large stockpile of weapons captured by the Taliban when US-led NATO forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021 has now made its way to Indian Kashmir. American broadcaster NBC News reported that Pakistan-backed terrorists operating in the region were observed using M4 carbine assault rifles, M16 rifles and other US-made weapons and ammunition.
According to the report, most of the weapons seized so far are from Pakistan-backed terrorist organizations Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operating in the Kashmir Valley.
Experts are concerned that the massive flow of US-made arms to such terrorist groups in the Kashmir Valley is the beginning of a global journey of arms.
According to Indian Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emran Musavi in Srinagar, terrorists from both organizations have been sent to Afghanistan to fight or train with the Taliban. After the withdrawal of US-led NATO forces, “it can be safely assumed that they have access to the weapons they left behind.”
However, when NBC News tried to contact government officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan for comment, they reportedly did not respond.
It may be recalled that in July last year, the Kashmir Police claimed to have recovered an M4 carbine assault rifle after neutralizing two JM terrorists in an encounter.
#AwantiporaEncounterUpdate: #terrorist Kaiser Coca #Neutralized. The identity of the 2nd terrorist has been found. # Impeachment 01 USA made rifle (M-4 carbine), 01 pistol and other items seized including materials, arms and ammunition.@JmuKmrPolice https://t.co/LghRwJ27sU
– Kashmir Zone Police (@KashmirPolice) July 11, 2022
Questions about US-made weapons being used in Kashmir were raised again in January 2022, when a video of terrorists brandishing American-made guns was widely shared on social media platforms.
Major General Ajay Chandpuri, General Officer Commanding (GOC) 19 Infantry Division based in north Kashmir’s Baramulla, in an interview to news agency ANI last year said that sophisticated weapons left behind by the Americans have found their way to Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha said the government is aware of the issue and measures are in place to counter the infiltration of US weapons into Kashmir. “We are monitoring the situation closely and have taken steps accordingly. Our police and army are on the job,” Sinha told a news conference at his official residence in Srinagar last year.
Weighing in on the matter, Ajay Sawhney, executive director of the New Delhi-based think tank Institute for Conflict Management, said that both Pakistan-backed terrorist groups JM and LeT are buying US arms from the Afghan Taliban. Reportedly through traffickers or having bases in Pakistan.
US $7 billion in military equipment left behind in Afghanistan during 2021 withdrawal
Notably, a Defense Department report published in August 2022 stated that nearly $7 billion in military equipment was supplied to the Afghan government in Afghanistan after the US completed its hasty withdrawal in August 2021.
A Forbes report indicated that since 2001, the US has provided $83 billion worth of training and equipment to Afghan security forces. That year alone, US military aid to Afghan forces was $3 billion.
US-made weapons and equipment captured by the Taliban are always likely to be sent to Pakistan for use against India.
After the withdrawal of NATO forces, many in India expressed concern that these weapons could soon find their way to Pakistan and then, through Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, to India, particularly Jammu and Kashmir. These weapons are first used by ISI-backed terror groups in Pakistan and then enter India, ANI reported quoting top military experts.
“There are a lot of inputs that suggest that US-sourced weapons, especially small arms, are being sent to Pakistan. But with the Taliban victory emboldening terror groups there, these weapons are likely to be used for violence in Pakistan itself,” senior military officials told ANI while discussing the outcome of the war in Afghanistan.