A report published by The Washington Post on Thursday revealed that the US has been secretly providing the Taliban with air support in its fight against ISIS in Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar Province.
The campaign is being carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the secretive counterterrorism task force. “What we’re doing with the strikes against ISIS is helping the Taliban move,” a member of JSOC told the Post.
In the Fall and Winter of 2019, President Trump took a hardline approach with the Taliban to negotiate the Doha peace deal that was signed in February of this year. During that time, while the US was regularly bombing the Taliban, JSOC provided the group with air support in Kunar.
The team conducting this mission inside JSOC is known as the “Taliban Air Force.” The unit does not communicate directly with Taliban commanders but instead listens in on their communications to track the group.
Members of the JSOC task force told the Post that they could tell when and where the Taliban would be preparing an offensive against ISIS. JSOC targets ISIS positions using Reaper drones and other military aircraft. The Taliban fighters on the ground are willing to accept the support and wait to attack ISIS positions until they see the missiles and hear the explosions.
US military officials have previously mentioned US support for the Taliban without disclosing any details. In March, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said the US is providing the Taliban with “limited support” in the group’s fight against ISIS.
As per the US-Taliban peace deal, the Taliban committed to preventing groups like ISIS from planning or launching international terror attacks from Afghanistan. But the Afghanistan branch of ISIS is believed to be mostly made up of local fighters, not international terrorists.