There have been numerous reports of Taliban Special Forces Units patrolling in Kabul. These units are very different from the traditional set-up of militant groups. And it is evident that the Taliban got the equipment for the battalion – state-of-the-art US military hardware and weapons and the same military equipment used by Afghan forces – from the departing US Army. But who trained them?
The Badri 313 Battalion is currently the elite military unit of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The group takes its name from the Battle of Badr, which happened on March 13, 624 AD, when the prophet Muhammad led a victorious battle with 313 men. Elite Taliban units have been reported as being “critical in the taking over of Afghanistan” according to AFP.
The Taliban also has another elite unit known as the Red Unit.
These troops are ideologically closely aligned with al-Qaeda. Units termed “Army of Badr” first carried out suicide attacks and raids on positions associated with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its allies in 2011, reported the Long War Journal. The Badri 313 Battalion already took part in an attack on G4S’s Kabul compound in November 2018.
After Kabul was captured by the Taliban in 2021, the Taliban reported that Badri 313 Battalion were securing the presidential palace, the Arg and other important sites in the city. It was reported as providing “security” at the Kabul Airport, TRT World reported. On Twitter they were mocked for showing off their CIA training – their index fingers were typically not on the rifle triggers.
The unit was previously featured in promotional materials distributed by the Taliban, showing them to be equipped with state-of-the-art military equipment. In July and August 2021, the Taliban released propaganda on Badri 313 Battalion in local languages, as well as in English and Arabic.
Videos released by the group show Badri 313 soldiers wearing US military night-vision gear, bulletproof jackets in camouflage clothing and modern American rifles and driving around in Humvees.
In fact, the Taliban unit appears to be equipped so well that it is difficult to distinguish between them and other country’s special combat units. According to the British newspaper The Daily Mail, there are now reports that the unit has been patrolling the streets of Kabul since the Taliban took control of the city this month.
According to an India Today report, Badri 313 is designed like any other special forces commando unit that receives training “at unknown locations under Taliban control”.
The Taliban now boasts a large cache of attack and intelligence aircraft, according to India Today, including 22 EMB-314 Super Tucano light-attack aircraft which are equipped with GBU-58 Paveway II laser-guided bombing systems.
They have access to “attack helicopters and precision-guided munitions,” according to 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 formidable gunships are capable of fearsome, low-level attack in ground fire conditions. This is a cause for grave concern that 11 American MD-530F light-armed helicopters designed for rapid, low-level attack missions and for special operations are now in their hands.
That is in addition to 35 US 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, is the C-130 Hercules, Sawant said. “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.”
Reports say that the Taliban’s special commandos played a key role in Afghan offensive and are now responsible for the security of Kabul where they can be seen deployed at all key locations, according to the Hindustan Times. Gilles Dorronsoro, who is a specialist on Afghanistan at the Sorbonne University in Paris, said these commandos was part of a larger trend. “We’ve seen a remarkable professionalisation of the Taliban since the middle of the 2000s,” he told AFP.
This has led some pundits to speculate that recent attacks on the airport in Kabul carried out by this special commando unit, may have been instigated by the CIA against US troops, since they were probably armed and trained by the CIA. The New York Times reported last week that the CIA planned to remain in Afghanistan to advance “traditional spycraft against powers like China and Russia”.
More than 100 people were killed, including 13 US soldiers and 90 Afghans, at the airport last Thursday. Moreover, communications in Afghanistan is under the control of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). It controls wireless companies, internet, radio stations and television channels. And the Taliban continue to transmit the visual and testimonial evidence of their actions.