WASHINGTON (SBG) — A little-known Taliban fighting unit, the Badri 313 Batallion, this week was spotted patrolling parts of Afghanistan's capital of Kabul in newly released propaganda videos from the insurgent group.
The videos show heavily armed Taliban soldiers carrying U.S. and U.S. ally-made weapons and gear that appear to be stolen from various allied militaries. Various helicopters and light attack aircraft, including 35 American Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, are also now reportedly under Taliban control.
In one propaganda photo, it appears the Taliban is mocking one of the most iconic American images from World War II — Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.
[The] Badri 313 Batallion [is] a special commando-style unit that is securing the Taliban's hold over Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan," said Shiv Aroor, a senior editor and television anchor at India Today.
Taliban fighters are typically seen wearing turbans and vests over shalwar kameez clothing while carrying old Soviet guns, many from the Soviet-Afghan War which happened from 1979-89.
The elite Badri 313 special unit, however, makes Taliban soldiers look similar to U.S. soldiers, wearing tactical helmets — some with night-vision goggles — as well as camouflage, combat boots, and body armor while carrying M4 carbine assault rifles and driving around in armored Humvees. M4s are made by U.S.-based Colt's Manufacturing Company which designed and produced the weapons for U.S. armed forces.
Aroor in a news segment that aired Wednesday, spoke of the seemingly new divide within the Taliban, saying:
On the one side are the shalwar kameez-clad terrorists brandishing their AK-47s and Kalashnikov rifles, wearing their traditional garb to impose religious will on Afghanistan. But on the other side, this has only been recently revealed, is a militia, a special operations unit of the Taliban that is being deployed not just in Kabul but elsewhere as well that has provided a completely different picture. No more just the sons of farmers and shepherds, a ragtag bunch of religious terrorists, but a special operations group comparable, perhaps, with the best in the world.
The group existed before this month's fall of Afghanistan but was comprised of various militia groups, all of which now operate for the Taliban.
The group takes its name from the Battle of Badr, which happened on March 13, 624 A.D., when the Islamic Prophet Muhammad led a victorious battle with 313 men.
Indoctrinated with the Taliban's brand of militant Islam with a name that arcs back to the name of an ancient religious war, but kitted out for the modern battlefield, the Badri 313 train like any combat unit with all manner of tactical, storming and attack training conducted at undisclosed locations in the hinterland," Aroor said. "Experts believe it could be the Taliban sending out a signal that they aren't a ragtag movement of farmers and shepherds who live by stealing weapons but have embraced modern military methods, even special forces operations tactics.
In addition to stolen modern military gear, the Taliban also now have a large cache of attack and intelligence aircraft, according to India Today.
That includes 22 EMB-314 Super Tucano light-attack aircraft which are equipped with GBU-58 Paveway II laser-guided bombing systems.
The Taliban has access to attack helicopters and precision-guided munitions," says Gaurav C. Sawant, senior executive editor with India Today. "They've captured six MI-24 heavy attack helicopters apparently gifted to the Afghan Air Force by India in 2019. These are formidable gunships capable of fearsome, low-level attack in groundfire conditions. Among the horde, and this is a cause for grave concern, 11 American MD-530F light-armed helicopters designed for rapid, low-level attack missions and for special operations.
That's in addition to 35 U.S. Black Hawk helicopters, 76 Russian MI-17 utility helicopters, 5, Cessna Combat Caravan airplanes, and 12 Pilatus PC-12 aircraft — used for intelligence gathering and rapid transport.
The biggest aircraft the Taliban now have access to, believe it or not, the C-130 Hercules," Sawant says. "This is one aircraft that is used by the Indian Air Force, by the American Air Force, by modern air forces across the world. [They are] capable of special operations even from unprepared runways. Hugely flexible for a number of military transport operations including special forces operations. If the Taliban can get them off the ground, imagine what this means for the Taliban.
Badri 313 trains like other modern tactical and combat units at various locations in Afghanistan's hinterland.
"With the Taliban now in power, there is every reason to believe the militia could grow in strength," Aroor says. "Expect to see much more of the Badri 313 in the weeks and months ahead."