Afghanistan, (TFC)— A concerning propaganda video has surfaced from the recesses of war-torn Afghanistan. A video allegedly released by the Taliban shows reputed militants imitating US Special Operations troops. The individuals dressed in tactical garb and demonstrating an understanding of professional military tactics and operation.
Sources are reporting the story first surfaced from Military Times, covering a lengthy militant propaganda video. It reputedly focused on military tactics as a demonstration of the Taliban’s capability and know-how. US military commentators and analysts stated the video’s purpose was to advertise the Taliban as a professional force.
The video is noteworthy due to the Taliban’s past habit of boasting of its “special forces”. Other militant groups, including the Islamic State, have also published similar videos with specialized units. Throughout the limited dialogue on the video, however, one facet is void. Where did they learn the tactics of US special operations, and obtain comparable weapons and garb?
Over the decades of fighting clandestine American forces, the Taliban has undoubtedly picked up some treats. A crate of captured weapons here, perhaps some uniforms there. But the most valuable asset to any military unit is personnel who know what they’re doing.
Some explanation may come from the numerous defectors of Afghan’s national army. At times, these double agents can be anything from foot soldiers to trusted battalion commanders. Despite that, an in-depth knowledge of spec ops tactics and access to their equipment stands out.
Similar questions linger on other militant groups, particularly the Islamic State. When IS first broke out in Syria and cut Iraq’s territory to pieces, one characteristic shined above all others. The ground fighters knew what they were doing, and were well equipped. That’s no small claim.
When The United States invaded Iraq in 2003, troops were still learning tight urban combat. A dilemma punctuated in cities like Baghdad ,or Fallujah before it was razed into dust. Even after limited urban combat experiences in Vietnam, modern adaptation took years. By the time the military grasped it, they attempted to pass this knowledge to reorganized Iraqi security forces. How is it, then, that the combat knowledge IS brought to the field matched or outmatched the Iraqi’s? Defector Iraqi commanders aside, this has been a running theme since IS first surfaced.
It’s a troubling question we must now ask for the Taliban and this new video. One deepening in controversy the more these groups acquire US weapons. Not just general issue rifles, but iconic black ops trademarks. However it happens, the more the US engages in conflicts with such groups the more its tactics are experienced and studied. “America knows war”, said a Somali death squad commander in the documentary Dirty Wars. “They are war masters, they know better than me.” “They are teachers”, the man concluded, “great teachers.” Words which would eventually become the prophetic statement.
Then there’s the more comfortable possibility that the Taliban’s knowledge simply stems from watching the internet. In America, certain units like SEAL Team 6–though shrouded in secrecy–are mythic in status. Dozens of movies and documentaries float about the web discussing the units in one way or another. The Navy SEAL movie Act Of Valor, for example, was noted for its use of active duty operatives for action scenes.
Between studying the copious amounts of media, and occasionally engaging operatives first hand, a model for their tactics might be conjured. Talking to sympathetic civilians could also help. In Dirty Wars, Afghan villagers whose family members were killed by US Spec Ops raids called the operatives “the American Taliban.” Those who experience raids first hand could then share their observations with Taliban fighters.
Adding to the fogginess is the difference between a trained eye and a civilian’s. When the Islamic State distributed a similar video of it’s “special forces”, American operatives laughed at how little those in the video understood. However, that depends on an uninvolved, uninformed outsider trusting their opinion. The same could be said for Military Times, which originally covered the Taliban video and offered its own explanation. As civilians, it can be difficult to judge one way or another. We simply go with whichever source we’re more inclined to trust.
However the militants acquired US tactics and equipment, one thing is true. They’re poised to demonstrate this understanding in America’s latest Afghan surge. With thousands of new troops headed to the 17-year war, a spike in violence is almost certain. It’s a powderkeg augmented by sporadic reports of Islamic State operatives battling the Taliban. Although the native militia has regularly triumphed, this may not always be. Everywhere in the world these questions sprout, we’re left to wonder what’s really on the ground. Or tucked away behind the curtain.