Taliban unit mocks US by recreating iconic photo while wearing American gear

As the Taliban tighten their grip on Afghanistan, the militant group has begun to mock the still-evolving chaotic U.S. withdrawal with propaganda including recreating an iconic photo taken of American soldiers raising the U.S. flag after capturing Iwo Jima from Japanese forces during World War II.

The photo appears to have been staged by members of what is said to be an above-average fighting unit sporting American-made equipment called the Badri 313 Battalion, reports noted on Saturday.

A number of propaganda videos are filling social media and news channels as the Taliban released materials aimed at hyping the unit, which appeared this week after the militant group overran the country and captured tons of U.S.-made military equipment that had been purchased for and supplied to the disintegrated Afghan National Army and police force.

The propaganda includes the recreated iconic photo of a five Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi as the battle of Iwo Jima was winding down in March 1945.

“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,” said Shiv Aroor, a senior editor and television anchor at India Today during a broadcast this week, according to Fox News.

“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,” he added.

The unit resembles U.S. and allied special forces and operations units in that they wear camouflage clothing, body armor, and combat boots and gear. In addition, the unit members are carrying U.S. military-style M4 carbines and are driving up-armored Humvees, according to the Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

“With the Taliban now in power, there is every reason to believe the militia could grow in strength,” Aroor added. “Expect to see much more of the Badri 313 in the weeks and months ahead.”

It’s not clear what the unit’s fighting capabilities are or if they’ve actually been involved in any combat operations against capable opposition.

Between 2002 and 2017, the U.S. supplied some $28 billion in weapons and gear to the Afghan National Army, but a U.S. official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said that “everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now.”

Experts say that the confiscation of American weapons and advanced aircraft is a major propaganda victory for the Taliban, even if the militant group doesn’t have anyone trained to operate or fly them.

“When an armed group gets their hands on American-made weaponry, it’s sort of a status symbol. It’s a psychological win,” said deputy director of the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor Elias Yousif in an interview with The Hill.

“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 noted further.

Jon Dougherty

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