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How Equipment Left In Afghanistan Will Expose US Secrets

The ultimate winner of two decades of war in Afghanistan is likely China. The aircraft and armored vehicles left behind when U.S. forces withdrew will give China—through their eager partners, the Taliban—a broad window into how the U.S. military builds and uses some of its most important tools of war. Expect the Chinese military to use this windfall to create—and export to client states—a new generation of weapons and tactics tailored to U.S. vulnerabilities, said several experts who spent years building, acquiring, and testing some of the equipment that the Taliban now controls.

To understand how big a potential loss this is for the United States, look beyond the headlines foretelling a Taliban air force. Look instead to the bespoke and relatively primitive pieces of command, control, and communication equipment sitting around in vehicles the United States left on tarmacs and on airfields. These purpose-built items aren’t nearly as invincible to penetration as even your own phone.

“The only reason we aren’t seeing more attacks is because of a veil of secrecy around these systems,” said Josh Lospinoso, CEO of cybersecurity company Shift5. “Once you pierce that veil of secrecy…it massively accelerates the timeline for being able to build cyber weapons” to attack them.

Lospinoso spent ten years in the Army conducting penetration tests against radios, small computers, and other IT gear commonly deployed in Afghanistan.

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