Taliban Special Forces Mock America: Iwo Jima-Style Flag Raising Pictures in Washington-Funded Gear Draws Ire

Following its capture of the capital Kabul on August 16th, the Taliban has established itself as the effective government of Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict with the U.S. and a broad coalition of its NATO allies which previously evicted it from power in September 2001. 

The insurgent group’s rapid successes have come as a major surprise due to the swiftness of the collapse of the heavily armed Afghan Military, which effectively fell apart as a result of low morale and questionable leadership, it has provoked a major scandal in the United States and across much of the Western world after thousands of lives were lost and trillions of dollars invested into turning the Central Asian state into a reliable and stable NATO client based on a Western-style political model. 

Particularly scandalous has been the Taliban’s capture of very large quantities of U.S. made arms and equipment which were provided to the previous Afghan government at Washington and the U.S. taxpayer’s own expense to keep the insurgent group out of power, including hundreds of thousands of handheld weapons, night vision equipment, body armour, sniper rifles, more than 2,000 armoured vehicles and close 100 aircraft. 

Capitalising on the shock its rapid takeover evoked in the U.S., the Taliban’s elite Badri 313 special forces battalion posted a photograph seemingly mocking its longstanding adversary by copying perhaps the most iconic image from U.S. military history - the flag-raising by six U.S. Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima in February 1945.

 The battle was one of the bloodiest fought overseas in U.S. history, and victory over the Japanese Empire there marked the beginning of the end for the Asian power and the start of a restoration of U.S. and Western hegemony in East Asia. 

The photograph has been replicated at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington after winning the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Photography. 

Taliban special forces raising their own flag, not only copying the positions of the U.S. Marines but also conspicuously sporting in body armour, camouflage, firearms and night vision equipment paid for by Washington, has been widely interpreted as an effort to both mock and send a signal to the U.S and the West as their victory continues to be met with widespread disbelief. The Taliban’s extensive use of media and social media has been highlighted for its contrast to the group’s previous eschewing of modern technology when it ruled the country in the 1990s and up to September 2001. 

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