Afghan soldiers who were trained by British and American forces have reportedly defected and are now fighting for the Taliban, UK army sources revealed.
British army officers have analysed recent images of the Taliban using their weapons and they believe some of the fighters are using techniques they learned from the UK and US as well as NATO countries.
A UK military source told The Times that they identified one Taliban fighter using a ‘straight finger’ over a gun’s trigger guard. The source said this indicates they were trained by western forces as veteran members of Taliban hold their AK47s ‘randomly’.
The source said: ‘This is the safety training we have,’ adding that if they displayed these techniques then we ‘know it’s our guys’.
While there is no official confirmation that Afghan soldiers who were trained by the UK and US have switched sides, the military source said it is likely they defected to save themselves after western countries withdrew from Afghanistan last month.
The source said: ‘Everyone just flips sides. You flip sides so you know you won’t get done in.’
It comes after the Taliban on Monday claimed victory in the Panjshir valley, the last province holding out against it.
Pictures on social media showed Taliban members standing in front of the Panjshir governor’s compound after days of fighting with the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), commanded by Panjshiri leader Ahmad Massoud.
Massoud denied that his force, consisting of remnants of the Afghan army as well as local militia fighters, was beaten, and tweeted that ‘our resistance will continue’.
Meanwhile the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, has previously said that ‘former forces that were trained and are professionals should be recruited’ to the Taliban.
Another former military source who analysed recent images told the newspaper: ‘The new Taliban 2.0, as they are being called, is using the finger discipline.
‘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’re not going to have a negligent discharge and no one else is going to fire it either.’
But a defence source disagreed with the claim and said they believed any ‘competent’ force would teach their soldiers how to handle their weapons in such a way.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘We have no evidence to support reports that western-trained former Afghan Security Forces have joined the Taliban.’
Barbara Kelemen, an intelligence analyst at security intelligence firm Dragonfly, said they had assessed ‘reasonable probability’ some Afghan soldiers had defected and switched to the Taliban.
She said: ‘Among reasons that would prompt some soldiers to join the Taliban are their previous ties to the group, economic incentives and even personal or familial safety if they perceived defeat for government forces was likely.’
Afghanistan is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster three weeks after the fall of Kabul with furious protesters taking to the streets of the capital and locals unable to withdraw money from banks.
The chaos comes as the Taliban announced a caretaker government, awarding top posts to veteran jihadists as it seeks to bring stability to Afghanistan.
The announcement came amid another day of angry protests on the streets of Kabul, with Taliban fighters firing into the air to disperse crowds demanding rights for women, work and freedom and movement.
Basic services have collapsed since the Taliban took power, people cannot withdraw money from banks and Western aid has been cut off.
The Taliban’s chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid held a press conference on Tuesday evening to announce UN-sanctioned Mohammad Hassan Akhund as their new leader.
Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar will serve as his deputy; Mullah Yaqub, son of the one-eyed late supreme leader Mullah Omar, was named defence minister; and Sirajuddin Haqqani, wanted by the FBI and the leader of the feared Haqqani network, was named interior minister.