A spokesman for the Taliban said that Afghans who have government-issued weapons, ammunition, or vehicles need to hand them over or face punishment.
“All those who have government goods, equipment, weapons, ammunition, or vehicles need to hand them over to the relevant department,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid on Twitter, according to translation. The weapons need to be given to the Taliban within a week.
He said the handover is necessary so “there is no need for the offenders to be prosecuted or dealt with legally if [the weapons] are discovered,” Mujahid wrote.
It’s not clear what will happen to individuals who are found to still possess firearms or ammunition after the deadline is over. Also unclear is whether the gun-confiscation plan entails weapons that were not provided by the Afghan government, which collapsed earlier this month.
As the Taliban swiftly captured swaths of Afghanistan territory earlier this month, it seized weapons, vehicles, other equipment, and military bases that had belonged to the United States. That includes U.S.-produced Black Hawk helicopters, M-16 rifles, various explosives, Humvees, and more.
Numerous videos and photos uploaded online in recent weeks show Taliban members holding M-4 carbines or M-16 rifles rather than AK-47s, which the group has used for decades.
On Aug. 18, several Republican senators demanded the Department of Defense (DOD) provide full accounting over the weapons and equipment that were captured by the Taliban, considered by several agencies as a terrorist organization.
“As we watched the images coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban retook the country, we were horrified to see U.S. equipment—including UH-60 Black Hawks—in the hands of the Taliban,” Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and two dozen other senators wrote to Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin this week.
“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the Republicans added. “Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, established by Congress in 2008, has said that about $83 billion was spent on developing and sustaining the Afghan police and army over two decades. Between 2003 and 2016, the United States transferred nearly 600,000 weapons, 76,000 vehicles, 163,000 communication devices, 208 aircraft, and surveillance and reconnaissance equipment to the Afghan forces, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report.
Between 2017 and 2019, the United States provided Afghan army forces with 4,702 Humvees, 2,520 bombs, 1,394 grenade launchers, 20,040 hand grenades, and 7,035 machine guns, stated the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.