Donald Trump and various congressional republicans, including Jim Banks, Pat Fallon, and Jason Smith have used this statement, but it is a myth. The $85 billion myth derives from money spent on the Afghan Security Forces since the war began in 2001 and, even then, the figure is lower ($82.9 billion). The Afghan Security Forces serves as the government defense of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Table 1 shows the breakdown of U.S. funded equipment provided to the Afghan Security Forces from 2003 to 2016. This is a large portion of the $82.9 billion.
Nevertheless, how did the United States try to ensure groups in Afghanistan will have limited access to U.S equipment? General Kenneth F Mackenzie Jr. of the Marine Corps said in a press conference on August 30th that equipment was either removed from the nation or, of a portion of what was left, was demilitarized including several C-RAMS/armored vehicles, 70 MRAPs, 27 Humvees, and 73 aircrafts. Because there is no exact inventory of what returned to the U.S and what was left behind, exact numbers are not used here, but $85 billion is an inflation. Furthermore, the General mentioned that a large majority of the high tech equipment left behind cannot be operated without extensive support from tech specialists.
Regardless of the falsity of the statement that $85 billion dollars of equipment was lost, the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, acknowledges that “certainly, a fair amount of [articles of defense] has fallen into the hands of the Taliban;” However, it is important to remember how advanced U.S military equipment is and, with that, how hard it is to use without substantial training. Of course, small arms will be easy to use, but a Black Hawk helicopter takes skill and time to be able to use effectively. There is no doubt that the Taliban gained equipment from the U.S withdrawal, but it is not factual to say $85 billion of the U.S defense budget has been lost.
For a complete breakdown of the $82.9 billion, refer to the July 30th, 2021 report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
Andrzejewski, Adam. “Staggering Costs – U.S. Military Equipment Left behind in Afghanistan.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Aug. 2021, http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2021/08/23/staggering-costs–us-military-equipment-left-behind-in-afghanistan/?sh=7c63af2d41db.
Farley, Robert. “Republicans Inflate Cost OF Taliban-Seized U.S. Military Equipment.” FactCheck.org, 3 Sept. 2021, http://www.factcheck.org/2021/09/republicans-inflate-cost-of-taliban-seized-u-s-military-equipment/.
Myre, Greg, and Scott Neuman. “How Valuable Are the U.s. Weapons the Taliban Just Captured?” NPR, NPR, 21 Aug. 2021, http://www.npr.org/2021/08/21/1029449432/taliban-afghanistan-us-weapons-captured.
Swenson, Ali. “FACT Focus: Trump, Others Wrong on US Gear Left with Taliban.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 31 Aug. 2021, apnews.com/article/ap-fact-check-taliban-7adfaa936245d5d755ec6111c81792c2.