Taliban’s Al Isha unit, the biometric database, the US and R&AW agents

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Ketan Barot
Ketan Barot
I'm Ketan Barot working as an intern for Frontier India. I have a keen interest for journalism. When not at work, I try my hands at making memes, watch football (GGMU) and listen to Travis Scott. *Views are personal.

According to several media reports, Taliban terrorists have access to a huge amount of biometric data on those who assisted the US and NATO partners or cooperated with Indian intelligence. This vital information came to them courtesy of the United States, which evacuated the embassy in a disorderly manner.

These reports come just days after it was revealed that US officials in Afghanistan “naively” handed over a “kill list” to the Taliban, which included the names of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies, for them to be allowed to enter the Taliban-controlled perimeter around Hamid Karzai International Airport. The records aided in the identification of Afghan employees and job seekers who were mistakenly left behind at the British Embassy in Kabul, which had been abandoned.

The Biometric Programme

In 2009, the US began gathering and compiling data from around 3,00,000 Afghans, mostly detainees and Afghan troops. In November 2010, a biometrics centre was established. Officials from the United States hoped to gather data on as many as 25 million Afghans to identify Taliban infiltrators. However, it turned into a method of identifying Afghans who were recruited or visited by US soldiers. Over the last 12 years, everyone who worked with the Afghan government or the US military was fingerprinted and scanned for the biometric database, including translators, drivers, nurses, and secretaries.

About 50 Afghans submitted fingerprints, iris scans, and other personal data at the Interior Ministry in Kabbul. Hand-held scanners were used to register the data. According to reports, the US soldiers possessed 700 pieces of weaponry.

US officials have not verified how many of the 7,000 scanners were left behind or whether the biometric information can be remotely erased after news of the security failure emerged.

All of this has now passed into the hands of the Taliban, who have taken control of the whole country and taken whatever the US officials were unable to take with them.

According to Zenger News, the Taliban have formed Al Isha, a special team tasked with cannibalising this biometric data and tracking down Afghans who assisted US and partner soldiers. According to the news agency, Nawazuddin Haqqani, one of the Al Isha unit’s brigade commanders, his team is utilising US-made hand-held scanners to hack into the database and positively identify anyone who assisted NATO allies or cooperated with Indian intelligence. Afghans who try to deny or minimise their involvement will find that the full record contradicts them.

“We have control of the interior ministry and the national biometric database they maintain,” he added. We now have the data of everyone, even journalists and so-called human rights activists. Have we not slain a single foreign journalist? We’re not arresting these people’s relatives, either,” he added. “However, the puppets of the Americans, the NDS [Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security], and the R&AW [India’s Research and Analysis Wing] will not be allowed off the hook. Al Isha will constantly keep an eye on them. Those who boasted about having US cash in their pockets until recently will not be spared. “They’re not going to be spared, are they?”

But Haqqani quickly clarified that Al Isha was only “keeping an eye” on Americans or the former Afghan government’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, and that “the matter is being blown out of proportion by the foreign media and it’s nothing more than a campaign to malign us,” he said. He said that the database was utilised to protect foreign journalists’ lives.

The Al Isha

The Taliban has never verified the existence of the Al Isha unit until recently, when the Haqqani Network, a terror organization affiliated with the Taliban, officially admitted its existence. According to the US National Counterterrorism Center, the network is “the most dangerous and sophisticated insurgent organization targeting the US, coalition, and Afghan forces.”

Nearly 1,100 individuals make up the Al Isha unit, which is dispersed across several of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. It is one of three units under the Khalil Haqqani Brigade, a military force with over 2,000 militants named after Khalil Haqqani, who heads the Badri 313 squad, which recently ridiculed the iconic photo of US Marines raising an American flag on Iowa Jima and has a $5 million reward on his head.

Khalil Haqqani is the younger brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who trained Osama Bin Laden and eventually worked for the Taliban as a cabinet member in the 1990s.

Surprisingly, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen has refused to comment on Al Isha and its usage of the biometric database.


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