The Taliban’s media wing has wasted little time releasing droves of new propaganda in the wake of its ascension to power.
In one particular image released this week, members of the Taliban’s Badri 313 Battalion appear to mock Joe Rosenthal’s iconic 1945 image of the flag raising atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
In the Taliban image, fighters belonging to the Badri 313, which some are calling the Taliban’s elite commando unit, are shown wearing full camouflage uniforms, combat boots, tactical gear and night vision goggles.
Similar photographs released in recent days show Taliban fighters carrying weapons and equipment issued by the United States or allied nations, including M4 carbines and what appear to be Trijicon advanced combat optical gunsights, or ACOGs.
The images are a noticeable departure from traditional depictions of Taliban fighters, who seldom appeared with heavy weaponry or in full military garb, spoils left behind by the Afghan army.
“When an armed group gets their hands on American-made weaponry, it’s sort of a status symbol,” Elias Yousif, deputy director at the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor, told The Hill Thursday. “It’s a psychological win. ... Clearly, this is an indictment of the U.S. security cooperation enterprise broadly. It really should raise a lot of concerns about what is the wider enterprise that is going on every single day, whether that’s in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia.”
Yousif added that much of the equipment would likely go unused, given the group’s dearth of training when it comes to piloting a collection of aircraft that, as of July, included 45 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and four C-130 transport planes, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters last week.
“And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”
Sullivan’s grim message was reinforced by the appearance of the Badri battalion, which derives its name from the 7th century Prophet Muhammad-led victory during the Battle of Badr.
In an Aug. 17 video shared to Twitter depicting the Badri 313 fighters, Qari Saeed Khosty, a well-known pro-Taliban social media influencer, claimed the the Afghanistan-based detachment is merely in Kabul to ensure peace.
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.