A propaganda photo released by the Taliban shows members of an elite commando unit recreating an iconic World War Two image of US Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima.
The staged photo shows the special unit, called the Badri 313 Battalion, hoisting the Taliban flag while wearing head-to-toe US kit. It was part of a collection of promotional images and footage of the militants released this week.
The Badri 313 are thought to be named after the 624 CE Battle of Badr, described in the Qur’an, in which the Prophet Mohammed defeated an enemy force with an army of just 313.
Considered the Taliban’s top fighting unit, the group are reportedly highly trained and are now equipped with state-of-the-art military gear.
US officials estimate that $28 billion worth of weaponry that America gave the Afghan forces between 2002 and 2017 is now in the hands of the Taliban.
The haul is thought to include seven brand new helicopters delivered to Kabul last month, 600,000 assault rifles, 2,000 armoured vehicles, and 40 aircraft, including Black Hawks, reports the New York Post.
Pictures of Taliban fighters on the streets of Afghanistan wearing US combat gear, and carrying US weapons have been widely shared on social media this week.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said: “We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban.”
‘And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport,’ he added.