During his recent Congressional testimony, Secretary of State Blinken went to great pains to assure everyone that even though the Taliban captured a great deal of very sophisticated American weaponry it’s really no big deal. Much of the stuff doesn’t work. The rest will soon be inoperable.
Comforting. Not true but comforting in a sort of “let’s pretend reality doesn’t exist” sort of way.
Virtually every picture we see of a Taliban fighter these days shows someone decked out in U.S. tactical gear and carrying a U.S. weapon of some kind. Pictures of Taliban fighters in U.S. vehicles are also common. We should not forget as well that the Afghan Army was not destroyed in combat. It quit and went home. That means there are many thousands of Afghans still in country who know precisely how to maintain all this equipment and will now either do so or be summarily executed.
I’m betting the Blackhawk technician will keep the blades turning rather than lose his head. The Taliban now have some very sophisticated equipment, and it will dramatically enhance their lethality and the sophistication of their operations.
A case in point involves sophisticated American communications gear. AND Magazine has learned via its sources on the ground in Afghanistan that the Taliban now have access to at least 20 U.S. Military SINCGARS radios (Harris Falcon III AN/PRC-160).
SINCGARS is the primary Combat Net Radio (CNR) for the US Army. It is a VHF-FM radio system that operates on any or all of the 2,320 frequencies between 30 and 87.975 MHz in 25 kHz increments. SINCGARS employs frequency hopping, as its primary means of communication in a hostile environment. SINCGARS is also capable of processing both analog and digital data in addition to handling voice communications.
The specific radio sets in question are manufactured by the L3Harris Corporation. Company promotional material describes the gear this way.
“The HF/VHF Tactical Radio System features software-programmable L3Harris Sierra™ II encryption, providing secure Type 1 interoperability among U.S., Coalition and Partnership for Peace forces. The manpack is fully compatible with L3Harris Falcon II® HF gear, supporting immediate installation using existing L3Harris vehicular and base station equipment. This wideband system is also the smallest, lightest, fastest wideband HF manpack available, SWaP-optimized to increase battery performance while reducing warfighter battle load and fatigue.L3 Harris
• Reliable, standalone HF long-haul connectivity
• Meets all NSA crypto-modernization standards for secure Type 1 TOP SECRET and Below voice and data
• Wideband data rates up to 120 kbps, ten times greater than existing HF radios
• Secure interoperability with over 135,000 L3Harris Falcon® radios currently in the field
• Compatible with Harris AN/PRC-150(C) power amplifiers, antenna couplers, vehicular mounts and accessories
• Smallest, lightest, fastest HF manpack available”
AND sources indicated that when the radios were captured all of the documentation concerning them was captured as well. None of the radios’ encryption was “wiped. That means what is known as the AES256 crypto fill and the frequency-hopping Sync fill are still loaded into these radios. They are still capable of operating in the secure manner for which they were designed. AES256 encryption, which the radios use is extremely difficult to break.
In fact, AES encryption is considered the gold standard. 256-bit AES encryption is about as good as it gets. It is essentially impossible to break via brute force. There has never been a single instance of AES-256 encryption being hacked. So long as the data encryption has been implemented properly, there is no known attack that would compromise the protection afforded by AES.
Blinken can say whatever he wants. Lies and misrepresentations will not change the awful truth. We have created a terrorist super state and we have handed it capabilities no terrorist group has ever dreamed of. We will pay the price. It’s only a matter of when.