Taliban touts more elite ‘Red Unit’ fighter training on social media

Taliban special forces trainer Ammar Ibn Yasir prays with members of the “Red Unit.”

There has been no slowdown in the Taliban’s propaganda, as two of the group’s top spokesmen continue to take to social media to tout the training of its military personnel.

One of their latest posts appears to show fighters from the Red Unit, the Taliban’s special operations unit that spearheads its assaults throughout the country.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid pushed out the images of the Red Unit on Twitter on April 4. Qari Yusuf Ahmadi promoted images from a Taliban camp in Paktika on Twitter on April 7. The images have yet to be published on the Taliban’s official website, Voice of Jihad.

However, the photographs bear the watermark of El Emara Studio, which is the official media wing of the Taliban.

While Mujahid did not explicitly identify the fighters in his photographs as members of the Red Unit, a prominent Taliban booster who has accurately reported on Taliban issues has confirmed. The photographs support his claim.

In his tweet, Mujahid named the lead trainer: Ammar Ibn Yasser, who is described as “the Mujahideen of Mujahideen.” In the photographs, Yasir and two other trainers were seen wearing shirt emblazoned with the logo of the Taliban’s “special forces.” The fighters were also wearing a distinctive red headband, which is associated with the Red Unit.

Taliban special forces trainer Ammar Ibn Yasir with members of the “Red Unit.”

Raza and his cadre of trainers are tasked with conducting “military training aimed at removing obstacles to Islamic sovereignty.” The Taliban has explicitly stated that it seeks to reestablish its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by force, through jihad, and install its emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, as its emir.

Background on the Red Unit

The Red Unit, also known as the Red Group or the Blood Unit, operates throughout Afghanistan and is often at the tip of the spear of assaults on district centers, military bases and outposts. The Red Unit operates more like shock troops rather than traditional Western special forces.

Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of a Taliban “Special Forces Unit,” also called the Red Group or Danger Group, in the summer of 2016. An Afghan Army special forces commander said the group uses “advanced weaponry, including night vision scopes, 82mm rockets, heavy machine guns and US-made assault rifles.”

The Taliban has touted the existence of “special forces,” and in the past has promoted its training camps as well as units in the field.

While the Taliban’s Red Unit certainly isn’t trained to the same standards and proficiency as US special operations forces, it has proven to be effective on the battlefield against its Afghan adversaries.

Tariq bin Ziyad Camp in Paktika

Yusuf’s photoset also showed Taliban fighters training in a snow-covered mountainous region. These Taliban fighters sported new weapons, full uniforms (including helmets and knee pads), and boots.

“Dozens of Mujahideen graduated from the Tariq bin Ziad Military Corps after completing their religious and military training,” Yusuf noted in his tweet accompanying the photographs.

The Islamic Jihad Unit, an al Qaeda ally that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan and fights alongside the Taliban, republished the photographs. The IJU noted that the camp was located in the eastern province of Paktika, a bastion of the Haqqani Network – the powerful Taliban subgroup that is closely allied with al Qaeda. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the HAqqani Network, also serves as one of the Taliban’s two deputy emirs as well is its military leader.

Photos of the Red Unit

Photos of the Tariq bin Ziyad Camp in Paktika

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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