American Resistance To Empire

Bigshot American General Whines That Russia Is Impediment To World Domination

[SEE: Is American economic survival dependent upon its ability to lay waste to the world?]

“When the veil of the shared artificial reality, that has been woven by Western psyop specialists, is torn asunder and cast aside, then all the world will understand that the turmoil that has been unleashed had nothing to do with any Nation’s national security and everything to do with maintaining Western corporate profits.”

Russia ‘threatens our ability to dominate’ – US general to Congress

Russia ‘threatens our ability to dominate’ – US general to Congress
The US is seeking to contain Iran’s rising influence in the Middle East and fend off challenges to Washington’s hegemony posed by Russia and China, the top general commanding US forces in the region told Congress.

General Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), briefed the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on Tuesday on the efforts against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and the wars in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. All of which fall under the purview of CENTCOM, “the only geographic combatant command executing active combat operations,” Votel pointed out.

The US has partitioned the globe into six combatant commands. Under this arrangement, CENTCOM’s area of responsibility extends from the Libyan border with Egypt to Pakistan’s border with India, and from Kazakhstan’s border with Russia to Sudan.

From Votel’s 45-page prepared testimony, it was apparent that the US regards Iran as the biggest challenge in the region, followed by Russian and Chinese efforts to chip away at Washington’s hegemony.

“An increase in Russian surface-to-air missile systems in the region threatens our access and ability to dominate the airspace,” Votel complained at one point, discussing Syria.

Unlike the US forces present in that country, Russian forces are in Syria at the invitation of the government in Damascus. Votel argued that the legal basis for the presence of US troops was the “collective self-defense of Iraq” from IS.

“The principle reason we are in Syria is to defeat ISIS, and that remains our sole and single task,” Votel told the lawmakers, echoing last week’s remarks by President Donald Trump.

Declaring the IS largely defeated, Votel cautioned that “Sunni populations remain vulnerable to identity-based recruitment” into terrorist groups, adding that “impressionable youth in this tumultuous region, seeking community and justice, are highly susceptible to extremists’ teachings.”

Votel made no acknowledgment of any role Russia’s intervention in Syria has played in the demise of IS. Rather, the general had some harsh words for Moscow, accusing Russia of playing “arsonist and firefighter,” fueling the conflict in Syria and then “claiming to serve as an arbiter to resolve the dispute.” As Votel explained, Moscow was offering diplomatic alternatives to “Western-led political negotiations” in Syria and Afghanistan.

Russia’s influence in the Central Asian countries that were formerly parts of the Soviet Union is “problematic,” as that could “limit US engagement options” and endanger NATO’s supply lines into Afghanistan, Votel said.

The general described Russia and Iran as “historic rivals” who nonetheless share interests, “including an overarching desire to sideline, if not expel, the US from the region.” The Russian and Persian empires did fight a series of wars over the Caucasus from 1651 to 1828. Iran was an ally of Washington from the 1953 CIA coup to the 1979 Islamic revolution, at which point the two countries became bitter enemies.

This is reflected in Votel’s testimony, in which he refers to common Washington tropes about Iranian imperialism and the “Shia crescent” from Iran to Lebanon. However, the CENTCOM chief seemed to backtrack from the previous narrative about the war in Yemen being instigated by Iran, choosing to describe it as a civil war in which Iran intervened to harm its regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“The conflict in Yemen has opened opportunities for Iran, which continues to provide support to the Houthis with the aim of building a proxy to pressure the Saudi-led coalition and expand its sphere of influence,” Votel said. He also revealed that the US has increased the number of advisers to the Saudi military over the past year, which should “help mitigate incidents of avoidable civilian casualties in Yemen.”

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting in Yemen since March 2015, without much success.

Though Votel explicitly denied that Washington’s mission in Syria is to counter Iran, he said that the US should “build [a] strong relationship” with the Iraqi military and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) “to impede Iran’s objectives in establishing lines of communications in these critical areas.”

Intervention by the US-led coalition and “regional powers” – by which Votel presumably meant Turkey – has already “blocked Assad’s ability to recapture major portions of northern Syria,” the general said, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

He also talked about “ad-hoc democratic organizations” that have been established in territories liberated from IS by the SDF, which rely on US and coalition funding for survival. Continued funding would “help them maintain popular support and set conditions for enduring, stable governance,” said Votel.

However, US efforts to work with the Kurds in northern Syria have been threatened by the recent Turkish military incursion into the Kurdish-held district of Afrin. While the Kurdish militia that are there are not part of the US-backed SDF, there are family and tribal ties between them.

“Our alliance with Turkey is paramount,” Votel said, “but we must continue to urge restraint as their actions have clearly increased risk to our campaign to defeat ISIS.“

The CENTCOM chief also argued that Moscow and Tehran are seeking an end to the Syrian war because they are pouring “billions of dollars” in aid into Damascus.

Yet, in the same hearing, he argued that Russia “has to admit it is not capable or that it doesn’t want to play a role in ending the Syrian conflict,” and that Moscow’s role was “incredibly destabilizing.” No explanation was offered for the discrepancy.

Both Major Taliban Factions Promise To Support and Protect TAPI Project

[Both of the warring Taliban factions of Anti-Taliban Mullah Rasoul and Primary Afghan Taliban under Mullah Akhundzada have allegedly sworn to defend TAPI and its construction as a new vital Afghan national asset, according to Chinese media, but, don’t forget that China has made huge “Silk Road” committments to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention its gigantic CPEC project (China Pak. Ec. Corridor).  It may be true now, that both warring Afghan Taliban factions have agreed to protect the TAPI effort, but let either side overwhelm the other, or strike a one-party “peace” deal w/the Afghan govt., and all bets are off…back to terrorism/sabotage as usual.]

Statement of Islamic Emirate concerning launch of TAPI project in Afghanistan

The TAPI Project – an important regional economic project which was originally initiated during the reign of the Islamic Emirate – is among the industrial and economic projects that have faced delays due to the American occupation of Afghanistan.

As the authorship privilege of this project is earned by the Islamic Emirate and since the documents and agreements signed between the Islamic Emirate and other sides involved in the TAPI project are still present and because most of the TAPI implementation area is under the control of Islamic Emirate [Taliban claim authorship of TAPI since the only contracts ever signed on the 20-year old dormant project were signed with them.–ed.], therefore the Islamic Emirate declares its policy towards the said project in the following lines:

1 – The Islamic Emirate views the project as a vital foundational economic element for the country and considers its proper implementation as good news for the Afghan people.

2 – The Islamic Emirate declares its support for the implementation of the said project passing through areas under our control and calls all sides involved to be mindful of the principled policy of the Islamic Emirate.

3 – Since Kabul regime holds international record in corruption and during their rule, no important project has ever been undertaken without financial corruption, embezzlement and theft, hence it will also orchestrate extensive corruption in this project. Therefore if the Islamic Emirate – during the implementation of the project – gets hold of resources proving embezzlement and corruption by officials of the regime and squandering of rights of the people, the Islamic Emirate will act to stop such actions. It also hopes that the involved sides will be vigilant in this regard so that this national project does not face complications and delays.

4 – Since this project is purely industrial and economic and the American invaders do not have any economic or military interests in it, therefore it is entirely possible that the Americans – for their vested interests – will create indirect problems for the project like how they created issues for the Mes Ainak project. The contract for extraction work was signed with the Chinese (MCC) company in 2008 however the project has yet to begin any practical work.

The TAPI project is the second most important foundational project after Mes Aynak which can positively impact the economic growth of the Afghans. The Americans can never tolerate any such project and program which is in the interest of the Afghans. Therefore the Islamic Emirate proposes to all sides – excluding the Kabul regime – involved in the TAPI project to take a pact of security and non-jeopardization from America through the United Nations or some other respected organization before beginning any work otherwise it is not far that the said project will face similar delays as the Mes Aynak project due to American meddling.

5 – The Islamic Emirate deems it its responsibility to revive foundational economic and reconstruction work in the country and asks international constructional companies to help the Afghans in this regard. The Islamic Emirate will in return not withhold any support for them.


Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

07/06/1439 Hijri Lunar

04/12/1396 Hijri Solar                    23/02/2018 Gregorian

US Pushes Surrender To Israel of Token Slice of Lebanon +Undersea Rights To Gas and Oil

The Lebanese rejection of the American proposal on sea oil and Block 9 was reaffirmed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, stressing that “we can not abandon a grain of dust on land or a point of water in the sea.”


Al-Jumhuriyah learned that Berri informed US Secretary of State David Satterfield of this position. Moreover, he stressed that the area of ​​the 860 km 2 in the sea (Block 9) is not only the property of Lebanon and its territorial waters and sea borders, More than 500 km 2 south, is also the property of Lebanon. Therefore, neither Israel nor a single millimeter is within this Lebanese area. “

It is also known that Satterfield is also aware of Lebanon’s rejection of what was called in Ain al-Tina “the process of circumventing Lebanon, whether by trying to bite its maritime borders or trying to bite its land borders.” After Lebanon received Satterfield from the United States to resolve the 13 points on land, The Americans proposed barter between land and sea, on the basis of “we give you in righteousness to give us into the sea.”

This is what the Americans have pointed out at the parity between the Lebanese and Israeli sides in some ground points, that is, sharing it under the title that its area is not more than 25 meters (yards) and the sharing removes the cause of tension between Lebanon and Israel on this point. However, this is a very dangerous proposition. Simply accepting the abandonment of the 12 meters on land, which already extends to the sea, means abandoning an area of ​​more than 300 and 400 km 2 in the sea and its wealth [The deceptive US/Israeli proposal was for Leb. to give the Zionist entity a narrow, 12 meter wide strip of Lebanese soil, ignoring the fact that the undersea property associated w/that slice of land extended 200 nautical miles out into the Med.–ed.].

“We said what we have in terms of our adherence to our rights. And it was clear to us that all the proposals made by the Americans come in the Israeli interest at the top of their goals, and do not want more than that. And President Berri was clear in his refusal to circumvent Lebanon, and pass a rule for us and what you have for us. “

New War Emerging In Syria, Or Just A Stirring of the Cauldron?

Protesters in front of the Russian consulate in Istanbul on Thursday during a demonstration against the air strikes and shelling by Syrian government forces in Ghouta. The writer says the external powers which had earlier been entrusted with the resp
Protesters in front of the Russian consulate in Istanbul on Thursday during a demonstration against the air strikes and shelling by Syrian government forces in Ghouta. The writer says the external powers which had earlier been entrusted with the responsibility of ending the Syrian conflict are now fuelling it.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Conflict transformed into more direct war between foreign powers eyeing new order

The idea that the Syrian conflict was “winding down” was so widely believed that even sober-thinking analysts found it difficult to challenge. But what a difference a week can make. The war, instead, has reached a new peak.

Within the space of a few days, Syrian rebels shot down a Russian jet, Kurdish fighters downed a Turkish helicopter and pro-government groups attacked US-backed forces.

Meanwhile, the United States killed tens of pro-Assad fighters and more than a dozen Russian citizens, the Syrian army shot down an Israeli F-16, and Israel downed an Iranian drone and launched its largest air strikes on Syria in decades.

All that happened against the background of intensive regime attacks on opposition pockets in Ghouta and Idlib, which led to the death of an estimated 1,000 civilians in one week alone. No, war in Syria is far from winding down. Instead, the last week has demonstrated how it has become a lot more complicated.

The mistake of that hitherto highly optimistic outlook rested on its proponents’ sole focus on internal Syrian dynamics, ignoring the emerging secondary conflicts between regional and international powers over the ruins of the country. Foreign powers now dictate the form of the war, according to their own priorities.

How that all began was when the nature of the relationship between local groups – both government and rebel – and their foreign patrons altered, with the effect being to put the latter in the driver’s seat in the conflict. The most salient evidence of this came when local groups were pressured to shift their priorities and join in a race between the US and Russia to recapture territories held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in north-eastern Syria.

In the meantime, the lack of willingness and support from the rebels’ backers – because of shifting interests in foreign capitals – made the survival of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime an unchallenged reality. This has transformed an armed rebellion meant to effect political transition into a fight simply for survival by the rebels.

Seen this way, the war is no longer about securing Syria’s future; it is about entrenching the old regime and the great contest of big powers on the plains and in the mountains of Syria.

The end of the military campaign against ISIS was, indeed, the final and decisive factor in this altered environment. Although ISIS still retains pockets of control and is capable of launching asymmetric attacks across the country, the group has lost the vast majority of its territory.

Many foreign powers in Syria were thus happy to announce victory over the terrorist group and to adopt new policies accordingly. Consequently, the end of the war against ISIS has ushered in secondary conflicts among foreign powers, which have sought to enforce and/or expand their zones of influence.

For the US, this has revolved around maintaining its presence in north-eastern Syria to stabilise captured areas, improve its leverage for a political transition and contain Iranian influence. The attacks recently by pro-regime forces against US troops along the Euphrates River, in turn, were aimed at minimising that very US influence and stripping it of the resources it controlled.

Although the exact make-up of the attacking force remains unclear, it is widely assumed that both Russia and Iran were directly involved. While this incident was not completely driven by foreign actors, the support and encouragement of foreign parties were what allowed it to occur. Just as importantly, it demonstrates a contest between outside interests taking place on Syrian soil.

Away from the north-east, the country is now divided into areas of influence between the key external powers. Some have a physical military presence in their areas (namely, the US, Turkey, Russia and Iran), while other areas are under symbolic influence (namely, by Israel). Attempts to change the de facto front lines of those areas can be made either by mutual consent or force. And they are being so attempted. For example, the ongoing Turkish-led operation against Kurdish forces in Afrin is being conducted with the blessing of Russia, which pulled back its troops and lifted the enforcement of its no-fly zone. The battle is driven entirely by Ankara’s desire to eliminate the perceived threat posed by the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party along the Syria-Turkey border. Rebels taking part in the Afrin operation are widely perceived as proxies working on behalf of Turkish interests.

And on another front, consider the clashes involving Israel. These incidents between Israel and Iran-backed forces have erupted because Teheran has been attempting to forcibly expand its influence in southern Syria along the Israel-Syria disengagement lines. Israel does not have a military presence inside Syria and has clearly designated its front lines as no-go zones for pro-Iran militias. The confrontations began after an Iranian drone penetrated Israel’s airspace. Israel retaliated by attacking the base from which the drone was launched. In response, the Syrian regime then downed an Israeli F-16 fighter jet. That then provoked Israel’s biggest air strikes on Syria in decades. Israel, which has enjoyed a relatively quiet front line with Syria for decades, is unlikely to have wanted to foment trouble for itself. This implies that Iran may have been behind the recent clashes.

The Syrian war has long been a proxy conflict motivated by internal Syrian dynamics. But recent developments illustrate that it has been transformed into more direct war between foreign powers hoping to create a new order in Syria.

These externally driven conflicts will unlikely provoke all-out, direct confrontations between foreign powers, but the deepening direct involvement of these actors and their attempts to play off each other for more leverage means confrontations will continue.

In short, the external powers which had earlier been entrusted with the responsibility of ending the Syrian conflict are now the ones fuelling it.

Russian forces Guarding Afrin crossing as new government fighters arrive

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (4:40 P.M,) – The 3rd batch of Syrian popular forces made it into the northwestern city of Afrin through al-Ziyara crossing to help defend the predominantly-Kurdish region from the Turkish aggression.

The first two batches have entered Afrin during the past few days as per an agreement concluded earlier between the Syrian government and Kurdish factions.

Last month, Turkey and its proxy militants have launched a full-scale offensive on Afrin region with the aim to ‘liberate the area from the terrorist Kurdish militiamen”.

The arrival of the Syrian forces will definitely make things harder for the already troubled Turkish-backed militants who failed to make substantial gains on the ground.

Meanwhile, members of the Russian military police were seen escorting the convoys at the Ziyara crossing in order to prevent the Turkish military from targeting the crossing as it was the case a few days ago when the 1st batch arrived.

Anti-Russian Propaganda vs Anti-Western Propaganda…which one wins?

Natalie Nougayrede: a victim of the propaganda system she doesn’t think exists

IAN SINCLAIR deconstructs the former executive editor of Le Monde’s assertion that propaganda is what ‘they’ — Russia and other official enemies — do, not something the West dirties its hands with.

Guardian columnist and leader writer Natalie Nougayrede wrote an op-ed last month examining propaganda in our supposed age of “lies and distortion.”

Focusing on “Russian propaganda” and “Russian meddling” in the West’s political systems, Nougayrede argued “citizens who live in an authoritarian, disinformation-filled environment deal daily with the reality of propaganda in ways we can’t fully experience, because we live outside of it.”

The former executive editor of Le Monde newspaper in France couldn’t be clearer. Propaganda is what “they” — Russia and other official enemies — do, not something the West dirties its hands with.

In actual fact, as academics David Miller and William Dinan argue in their 2007 book A Century of Spin, sophisticated propaganda has played a central role in Western societies, particularly the United States, since the early 20th century. US dissident Noam Chomsky calls this “thought control in a democratic society.”

As the “father of public relations” Edward Bernays explained in his 1928 PR manual, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society … it is the intelligent minorities which need to make use of propaganda continuously and systematically.”

This echoes the thoughts of another influential intellectual of the period, Walter Lippmann, who believed the elite needed to be protected from the “bewildered herd” — the general public. How? By “the manufacture of consent.”

Indeed the term “public relations” is itself a brilliant bit of spin, with Bernays noting: “Propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans … using it [in 1914-18]. So what I did was to try to find some other words. So we found the words Council of Public Relations.”

As the quotes from Bernays and Lippmann highlight, Dinan and Miller say: “Public relations was created to thwart and subvert democratic decision making” — to “take the risk of out of democracy,” to paraphrase the title of the seminal 1995 book written by Australian academic Alex Carey.

With the US and UK at the heart of the global advertising and marketing industries and corporations funding think tanks and huge lobbying efforts, today the general public faces hundreds of thousands of talented professionals spending billions trying to influence their thoughts and actions.

For example, in 2013, The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg reported that, between 2002 and 2010, conservative US billionaires had covertly provided £86 million to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change.

“Americans are now being exposed to more public relations than ever before,” Sue Curry Jensen, professor of media and communication at Muhlenberg College, wrote on The Conversation website last year.

Western governments become especially interested in manipulating public opinion during wartime. In 1990, we had the confected story about Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait throwing babies out of incubators, masterminded by the US PR firm Hill & Knowlton.

In the late 1990s, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service carried out Operation Mass Appeal aimed at gaining support for sanctions and war against Iraq.

Stories were planted in the foreign media “with the intention that they would then feed back into Britain and the US,” British historian Mark Curtis explained in his book Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses.

In 2002-3, the British government carried out a long campaign, complete with dossiers, sexed-up intelligence and dirty tricks at the United Nations, to persuade the British public to back the invasion of Iraq — what Curtis calls “a government propaganda campaign of perhaps unprecedented heights in the post-war world.”

In 2011, the public was told that Nato intervention in Libya was essential to stop Libyan government forces massacring civilians in Benghazi.

Five years later, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee’s investigation into the UK role in the conflict concluded that “the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”


As George Orwell once said: “Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks the whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns somersaults when there is no whip.”

The military itself is a huge source of propaganda. In 2016, the Mirror reported that the British armed forces employ 122 press officers and spend £41.4m  on press and public relations.
Across the pond the Pentagon spends “nearly £431m annually on public relations” in an attempt “to shape public opinion,” according to Chatham House’s Micah Zenko.

It is likely US propaganda is directed at the UK population as well as the public. For example, in 2010, Wikileaks published a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) memo proposing how European support for Nato mission in Afghanistan could be sustained.

Concerned that “indifference” to the war in nations like France and Germany “might turn into active hostility,” the memo recommends “a consistent and iterative strategic communication program across Nato troop contributors.”

This will create “a buffer” to future opposition, thus “giving politicians greater scope to support deployments in Afghanistan.”

“Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanising the ISAF [International Security Assistance Forces] role in combating the Taliban,” the CIA notes.

“Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories… could help to overcome pervasive scepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.”

Though the liberal view is of a media that is cantankerous and highly critical of power, some basic facts suggest something else is going on. “Research indicates that as much as 75 per cent of US news begins as public relations”, Curry Jansen notes.

Investigative journalist Nick Davies confirmed similar figures for the UK press in his 2008 book Flat Earth News. In addition, in the US there are now five PR people for every reporter.

More broadly, Chomsky has long noted that mainstream news media play a key role in relaying corporate and government propaganda to the general public. In their book Manufacturing Consent Edward Herman and Chomsky highlight an “observable pattern of indignant campaigns and suppressions, of shading and emphasis, and of selection of context, premises, and general agenda” which “is highly functional for established power and responsive to the needs of the government and major power groups.”

This brings us back to Nougayrede, who has been spreading fake news and propaganda about the West’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

In August 2015, she wrote in the Guardian that President Obama has “refrained from getting involved in Syria,” noting that “the US has this year found only 60 rebels it could vet for a train-and-equip programme.”

In the real world, mainstream newspaper reports had already noted the US and UK had been working with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to send in hundreds of tons of weapons to Syrian rebels.

Moreover, in June 2015, the Washington Post estimated that the CIA Timber Sycamore programme in Syria — “one of the agency’s largest covert operations” — was spending £720m a year and had trained and equipped 10,000 rebels.
Pushing for Western military intervention in July 2015, Nougayrede highlighted what she saw as the hypocrisy of the anti-war left in the West, saying “there have been no significant street demonstrations against the war that Assad and his allies have waged on Syrian civilians.”

Chomsky explored the laser-like focus many intellectuals had for the crimes of opposite states in his 1992 book Deterring Democracy. “Fame, Fortune and Respect await those who reveal the crimes of official enemies,” he noted, while “those who undertake the vastly more important task of raising a mirror to their own societies can expect quite different treatment.”

There are, of course, very real consequences for those criticising the government in authoritarian states, so it’s understandable why commentators living under oppressive governments might toe the party line.

Nougayrede, on the other hand, continues her Western power-friendly crusade against the West’s official enemies freely of her own volition, no doubt thinking she is a questioning, adversarial commentator — a perfect illustration of the power of Western propaganda.

As George Orwell once said, “Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks the whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns somersaults when there is no whip.”

You can follow Ian Sinclair on Twitter on @IanJSinclair.

Covert Afghan Defense Forces Use “False Flag”, a.k.a., “Gladio” Tactics To Falsely Implicate Taliban

Painting by Anthony Freda


“False flag terrorism” occurs when elements within a government stage a secret operation whereby government forces pretend to be a targeted enemy while attacking their own forces or people. The attack is then falsely blamed on the enemy in order to justify going to war against that enemy.


“Gladio was set up after WWII as a clandestine group of operatives that were to be activated in the event of a Soviet invasion of Europe. Their plan quickly evolved into a program of political repression and manipulation directed by NATO and the CIA. What could go wrong? For decades Gladio carried out widespread terrorist attacks, assassinations and electoral subversion in democratic states such as Italy, France and West Germany, but were portrayed to the public as Communist or Left Wing terror attacks. Thanks to corrupt media disinformation and lies, the facts of this operation have been kept hidden from the public.“– Operation Gladio And The False Flag Muslim Terror Hoax


[Pentagon/CIA Repackages Afghan Govt. Terrorist Force As “The Renouncers”–(updated) NYT Highlights Taliban Split and Afghan Govt Sponsorship of Mullah Rasoul Faction–(updated) ]

FILE: Members of the Afghan security forces take position during an operation against Taliban in Helmand province in April 2017.

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — A white unmarked Toyota pickup truck carries 10 armed young fighters to a frontline. All are dressed like Taliban fighters, with most wearing black or dark green khet partug — a long loose tunic and baggy pants. All are wearing the distinctive black or white turbans preferred by the Taliban.

They, however, are not Taliban. As members of a secretive Afghan government militia, their mission on a cold February morning is to infiltrate groups of insurgent fighters along a tense frontline in the restive southern province of Helmand.

As they speed along a twisting rural road past fields, orchards, and clusters of mud houses, only one of them agrees to briefly talk.

He requests not to be identified by name because the Taliban are actively pursuing and targeting members of the force, which is locally called Sangorian.

“We are proud of what we are doing. We turn insurgent tactics against them and fight them in the same civilian dress they wear,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “My only regret is that we sometimes scare civilians because they mistake us for the insurgents.”

Sangorian, named after a Turkish television soap opera about undercover operatives, claims credit for defeating Taliban attempts to overrun Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah. The insurgents virtually besieged it for months in 2016.

Estimated to now number between 500 and 1,000 fighters, the militia was created alongside the Bost Unit by the Afghan secret service, the Directorate of National Security.

“We have always inflicted harm on the enemy. We have killed their fighters and captured their weapons and ammunition,” the Sangorian member said. “This is why the enemy is keen to retaliate. They often use heavy weapons to attack our units.”

The Taliban killed at least 16 Sangorian members in an attack on a check post in Helmand’s Gereshk town on February 10. “Three of our brothers turned their guns on militia members after infiltrating one of their important camps,” a Taliban statement said.

Communist-era former general turned lawmaker Abdul Jabbar Qahraman is all praise for Sangorian. As Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s operational commander for Afghan forces in Helmand two years ago, he reportedly oversaw the formation of Sangorian.

“They were so successful that our enemies began to fight among themselves,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “Their sabotage within the enemy ranks prompted many Taliban commanders to mistrust each other so much that they began to surround themselves with bodyguards to prevent possible attacks from rivals.”

After the drawdown of most international troops by the end of 2014, the Taliban scored major territorial gains in Helmand, Afghanistan’s largest province, strategically located near Iran and bordering Pakistan. By early 2016, the insurgents controlled or contested 12 of the region’s 14 districts and were threatening to overrun the entire province by besieging Lashkar Gah. The city of an estimated 300,000 residents is home to important government departments and major military encampments.

Qahraman says it was Sangorian’s operations behind insurgent lines in the strongholds of Sangin and Musa Qala districts that prevented the Taliban from overrunning the provincial capital.

“As a former army general, I can tell you confidently that they played a major role in preventing the fall of Lashkar Gah to the enemy,” he said.

Not everyone in Lashkar Gah, however, is happy about Sangorian’s success. Some residents whisper of alleged abuses by the militia — claims the authorities reject, saying they have received no formal complaints of misconduct.

During nearly 40 years of war, Helmand’s residents have repeatedly seen government militias turn into marauding thugs. Civilians and politicians are now worried Sangorian will follow the same path.

Lawmaker Attaullah Afghan leads Helmand’s provincial council. He says that after performing their main task of preventing the fall of Lashkar Gah, Sangorian members no longer need to to work undercover.

“The people of Helmand now want Sangorian and other similar groups to wear the uniform of forces commanded by the Directorate of National Security,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

Omar Zhwak, the spokesman for Helmand’s governor, says the government is already working on such a plan.

“We are working on building them up in terms of education, discipline, and equipment to bring them on par with other forces,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “They have proved very useful.”

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mohammad Ilyas Dayee’s reporting from Lashkar Gah, Helmand.

Helmand's security chief Abdul Jabar Qahraman (C) surrounded by police and army officers.

Helmand’s security chief Abdul Jabar Qahraman (C) surrounded by police and army officers.

Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency has initiated a secretive unit in southern Helmand Province with the aim of taking advantage of divisions within the Taliban movement.

According to government officials, the goal is to weaken the increasing threat posed by the insurgency by using the Taliban’s own tactics. The militants have boasted of placing agents among security forces to carry out so-called insider attacks.

The initiative comes at a time when fledgling Afghan forces are struggling to stop the Taliban from taking over large swathes of Helmand and other areas across the country.

Abdul Jabbar Qahraman, President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for security affairs in the southern province, gave confirmation of the existence of the unit, whose members wear no uniform, but he declined to elaborate.

“The idea for the creation of the new contingent, which dresses like local Helmandis, was mine,” said the official, a former commander who fought for the Soviet-backed government in southern Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Helmand police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said the 300-strong unit, created and equipped by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), had conducted several operations and has so far proved a success.

The NDS headquarters in Kabul did not respond to several requests for comment, although an official — who declined to be identified — at the agency in Helmand confirmed the unit’s existence and the broad outlines of how it operates.

The Taliban themselves have confirmed the unit’s existence but dismissed claims that it was successful in exploiting internal divisions, calling such suggestions “propaganda.”

“It is true that this contingent exists and operates mysteriously in some parts of Helmand,” said Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, the Taliban’s main spokesman in southern Afghanistan. “We have very strong intelligence and find those who want to infiltrate our ranks.”

The NDS unit further complicates the situation in Helmand, a traditional stronghold of the Taliban and the center of the opium trade. In addition the insurgency, Helmand is a web of tribal and factional conflicts.

Deceit and double-cross have become commonplace in Helmand, and government forces are often the victim. In January, four rogue policemen killed nine comrades and stole their weapons before deserting to join the insurgents.

Afghan and NATO officials have frequently spoken of the difficulties faced by the Afghan National Army — a largely Dari-speaking force relying heavily on recruits from northern Afghanistan — in operating in Pashto-speaking Helmand.

One provincial official said the unit operates in Musa Qala and Nawzad, two central districts that government forces abandoned in February, as well as Marjah and Nad Ali, where the government maintains only tenuous control.

“Now the Taliban do not believe each other. They believe their colleagues may be infiltrated by the Afghan intelligence agency,” he said.

Despite a relative lull in recent weeks allegedly due to the annual opium harvest, Helmand has witnessed months of heavy fighting. Government forces have been forced to abandon several districts and regroup around the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

But the unit’s reported successes have come at a price, according to local officials.

“It is a very good achievement by the Afghan government and has created splits within the Taliban,” said Attaullah Afghan, a member of Helmand’s provincial council. But, he said, officials have received dozens of complaints from residents in districts like Nawzad and Khanishin.

“The Taliban are abusing ordinary people and even arresting some of them as spies for the Afghan government,” he said.

According to local sources, a battle between rival Taliban fighters in the Nad Ali and Marjah districts that killed as many as 30 fighters on May 8 was set off by the special NDS unit.

They said members of the unit attacked a checkpoint manned by insurgents loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, creating the impression that they were on the side of Mansour’s main rival, Mullah Mohammad Rasul.

The Taliban denied the fighting was between rival factions but did cite “bandits newly armed by Jabbar Qahraman.”

“There is currently no fighting in the area, and the entire region has been cleansed of these newly formed bandits,” Ahmadi said in a statement.

With reporting by Mohammad Stanekzai for Reuters