The Taliban said Wednesday they had arrested a man trying to sell an advanced United States military reconnaissance balloon to Iran.
The Interior Ministry in Kabul announced the man, named only as ‘Mostafa,’ and his still-at-large accomplice ‘Alireza’ were negotiating over a price well short of the balloon’s cost. The ministry said Mostafa was from the central province of Uruzgan.
The balloon is a tethered aerial detection system known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) and is used to detect missiles, drones, piloted aircraft, boats, and ground vehicles. JLENS has surveillance radar scans in all directions and can provide constant, 360-degree coverage extending 550km.
In the weeks before and after the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer, the Taliban seized weapons and equipment left by fleeing Afghan forces. Reuters suggested last year that US intelligence assessed Afghanistan’s new rulers acquired more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones.
According to Reuters, between 2002 and 2017, the United States transferred to the Afghan military around $28 billion in weaponry, including rockets, night-vision goggles, and intelligence-gathering drones.