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Washington worried that Taliban may pass on key US weaponry to China for copying

Washington worried that Taliban may pass on key US weponry to China for copying

U.S. officials appear to be worried that the hi-tech weapons such as aircraft, military drones and communications equipment that has fallen into Taliban hands in Afghanistan may be passed on to China, a country that is notorious for what is called “reverse engineering” or copycat products.

Technology developed after years of painstaking R&D and spending billions of dollars could now be made available to China on a platter to upgrade its military hardware at a time when Beijing has locked horns with the USA in a fierce geopolitical rivalry.

Videos showing Taliban fighters inspecting long lines of US vehicles and opening crates of new firearms, communications gear and military drones have been circulating on social media.

Reuters news agency cited Andrew Small, a Chinese foreign policy expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, as saying that the Taliban was likely to grant Beijing access to any U.S. weapons they may now have control over.

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Current and former U.S. officials say there is concern those weapons could be used to kill civilians, be seized by other militant groups such as Islamic State to attack U.S.-interests in the region, or even potentially be handed over to adversaries including China and Russia, according to Reuters.

Between 2002 and 2017, the United States gave the Afghan military an estimated $28 billion in weaponry. The current US intelligence assessment was that the Taliban are believed to control more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones, a senior official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

President Joe Biden's administration is very worried about the weapons and has been considering various options to tackle the issue.

According to Reuters, the officials said launching airstrikes against the larger equipment, such as helicopters, has not been ruled out, but that would stall the ongoing evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan.

Between 2003 and 2016 the United States provided Afghan forces with 208 aircraft, figures compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office show.

About 40 aircraft are reported to have been flown to Uzbekistan by Afghan pilots fleeing the Taliban. The pilots were on the hit list of the Taliban and some of them had been assassinated to blunt the strike power of the Afghan military.

Analysts are of the view that the Taliban have been cosying up to the Chinese leadership for both diplomatic and financial assistance and would be ready to oblige them in the matter of military technology as well.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Chinese state media late on Thursday that China has played a constructive role in promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and is welcome to contribute to the rebuilding of the country,

"China is a big country with a huge economy and capacity – I think they can play a very big role in the rebuilding, rehabilitation, reconstruction of Afghanistan," Shaheen told CGTN television.

A top-level Taliban delegation, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, had met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin in Beijing last month, and gave the assurance that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants. The Taliban diplomacy was aimed at allaying Beijing’s fears over the restive Muslim minority in its Xinjiang province.