LONDON: Afghan soldiers trained by western forces have switched sides to fight for the Taliban, UK military sources revealed on Tuesday.
Officers in the British military, who have analyzed recent images of Taliban fighters including in the final battle for Panjshir, believe the soldiers are showing signs of using techniques employed by NATO countries based on the way they hold their weapons, the Times newspaper reported.
Identifying a “straight finger” trigger position while holding a gun, the military source said: “This is the safety training we have,” adding that if a soldier is seen carrying a gun in that way, they can “know it is our guys,” because traditional Taliban fighters hold their weapons “randomly.”
While there has been no official confirmation of British and American-trained Afghans joining Taliban ranks, experts say it is likely they would face little choice not to — due to the threat of imprisonment or execution.
“Everyone just flips sides,” the source said. “You flip sides so you know you will not get done in.”
“(The Taliban) is not the same hillbillies from the 1990s,” the source added, pointing out that they were “more westernized” than before and “had smartphones.”
The fact that the Taliban “is not killing loads of people” in the Panjshir Valley, the last remaining enclave of resistance in Afghanistan, also supports the belief that western-trained fighters are now among the country’s new rulers.
Another military source, who also saw images from the fighting in Panjshir Valley, commented on the Taliban fighters and how they held their weapons.
“The new Taliban 2.0, as they are being called, is using the finger discipline,” the source said. “An untrained force would normally hold the weapon randomly. But if your hand is behind the pistol grip and your finger is over the trigger guard, then you are not going to have a negligent discharge and no one else is going to fire it either.”
Barbara Kelemen, an intelligence analyst at Dragonfly, a specialist security intelligence firm, told the Times her firm concluded there was “reasonable probability” some Afghan troops would have joined the Taliban.
“Among reasons that would prompt some soldiers to join the Taliban are their previous ties to the group, economic incentives and even personal or family safety if they perceived defeat for government forces was likely,” she said.
However, a defense source disputed the claim and said that any “competent” force would have been trained to handle their weapons in the same way.
“We have no evidence to support reports that western-trained former Afghan Security Forces have joined the Taliban,” the source said.