The Taliban are better militarily prepared than they have been for the past 20 years. Among their innovations, the Taliban army's special forces, the "Badri 313" brigade, which is now reportedly controlling Kabul airport in order to provide "security", is a cause for concern.
In an attempt to show their international power, the Taliban have shown through their social networks their "high weapons capability" and their readiness to engage in combat. They have done so by posting several images of the "Badri 313" battalion, the Taliban army's special forces, which are said to have played a key role in the rapid conquest of Afghan territories. One of the images shows Taliban members of the Bradi 313 special unit raising their flag in US clothing and weaponry as US soldiers did on Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 in World War II.
Bradi 313 is a special forces wing of the Taliban army. The name 'Bradi' refers to the Battle of Badr, a battle that took place more than 1,000 years ago in which, according to Islamic scripture, the Prophet Muhammad reportedly led 313 men to victory.
These special forces would also have interests beyond the battlefield. In this respect, the 313 group is closely linked to the Haqqani network, one of the leading factions of the Taliban movement considered by the US as a terrorist group. This unit has been promoting its special forces units since November 2011, when they carried out a terrorist attack on the Continental Hotel in Kabul. In addition, in the same year 'Badr's Army' carried out suicide attacks and raids on positions associated with Afghanistan and its allies for the first time in 2011.
Alongside this, they were known to wage a campaign against Daesh between 2017 and 2020, as noted by the AFP news agency. This military formation would be relatively new, noting that 20 years ago, "the Taliban did not have this kind of military sophistication".
A US official consulted by Reuters estimated that the US delivered approximately $28 billion worth of weapons to Afghan forces, and now "everything that has not been destroyed is in the hands of the Taliban". Along these lines, the main differences of this unit compared to the Taliban fighters are that they have camouflage equipment, bullet-proof waistcoats and armoured military equipment.
The Haqqani have repeatedly emphasised that these troops are ideologically closely aligned with Al-Qaeda. In this vein, one of the network's top leaders has issued his first message since the takeover of Kabul, affirming "the end of the war" in Afghanistan and guaranteeing "security" to its citizens. "We did not promise a ceasefire, we promised an end to the war and it is over, thank God," he concluded. In addition, two representatives of the network are reportedly attending negotiations on the new government in Kabul.
Following the insurgents' takeover of Kabul, it has been reported that the Badri 313 Battalion has been deployed to secure the Arg, i.e. the presidential palace in Kabul, as well as the capital's airport. Alongside this, Taliban-linked social media accounts claim that members of the Badri 313 group are reportedly providing "security" at the airport.
The group is also believed to have been responsible for some of the Taliban's major battlefield successes, as well as having executed complex 'martyrdom' operations.
Although its forces are not comparable to Western special forces, its members "are more effective than the standard Taliban" and "more effective than Afghan National Army troops in recent weeks", says an expert analyst. In this vein, Jane's magazine's terrorism and insurgency section chief, Matt Henman, estimates that this brigade "probably brings together some of the best trained and equipped fighters".
"We may think there is a bit of sensationalism in the propaganda surrounding it," he says, but it is "very likely that Pakistan has provided at least an embryonic training".
For his part, journalist Bill Roggio has stressed that unit 313 represents "the combination of years of Taliban military training and the Haqqani network's efforts to professionalise the Afghan military establishment". "The war they are fighting is not at all the war their fathers fought against the Russians. They have learned on the ground and are very good at the technical level," he insists.
"We see a remarkable professionalisation of the Taliban since the mid-2000s," confirms the professor of political science at the University of Paris, Gilles Dorronso.
In this line, in images disseminated through social networks, they have shown themselves to be equipped with high-level weapons equipment that would include weapons of war, security equipment, bulletproof vests, balaclavas, night-vision goggles and tactical radios. In addition, the US military arsenal has passed into the hands of the Taliban, who are now heavily armed and capable of stopping uprisings that may break out in the country.
As the insurgents have occupied Afghan cities, the Taliban have gained control of a substantial arsenal of assault rifles, machine guns and other high-tech weapons. In Kunduz alone, the Taliban managed to acquire armoured mine-proof vehicles, drones and Humvees, according to the US media The Independent. Battalion 313 is also reportedly equipped with M4 carbines and Humvees, acquired from Afghan military forces that surrendered without resistance.
In total, the Taliban would have more than one million US military pieces, more than 2,000 armoured vehicles, 40 vehicles, attack helicopters and military drones.