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The current situation in Afghanistan is bringing back uncomfortable memories of when the United States pulled out of Vietnam, leaving a vast bonanza of military equipment behind it. That hardware list included everything from F-5 fighter jets and UH-1 Huey helicopters to M48 tanks and armoured personnel carriers with the Vietnamese People's Army sending some items to the USSR for study. The New York Times estimated that the largely serviceable equipment was worth around $2 billion at the time, or $9.6 billion in 2020 dollars. Captured U.S. military hardware hit the front pages again in the mid-2010s once again when ISIS overran large swathes of Iraq, capturing modern M1 Abrams tanks and a huge quantity of HMMWVs that were supplied to the Iraqi army.

Those losses are now being eclipsed in Afghanistan as the U.S. and its allies approach the end game amid a Taliban resurgence. The militants have taken control of around a third of the country's 421 districts and its attacks in recent days have sent more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers fleeing across the border into Tajikistan. The group's considerable gains have enabled it to capture huge quanities of western equipment supplied to the Afghan security forces. Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans at the Oryx blog have been keeping tabs on the items destroyed or captured by the Taliban through photographic evidence.

Their findings certainly bring back some of the symbolism of Saigon as the amount of hardware finding its way into Taliban hands grows ever larger. Oryx reports that since June alone, the Afghan security forces have lost nearly 350 HMMWVs, just over 300 of which were captured by the Taliban. 277 Ford Ranger pickups have also been lost with 256 captured and 21 destroyed. Four transport helicopters have also been lost over the last few weeks including one U.S.-supplied UH-60 Blackhawk and three Russian-made Mi-17 Hips.

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