by Oleg Burunov
August 24, 2021
Some believe that even if reports of the Taliban* having access to the US-led coalition’s biometric data prove true, it remains to be seen whether the militant group will have the technical know-how to exploit it.
The Taliban has managed to seize the US military’s biometric devices that may help militants to identify Afghans who assisted coalition forces, The Intercept cited unnamed sources as saying.
The sources argued that US-made so-called Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE) was captured last week during the Taliban’s offensive which culminated in the insurgents entering Kabul and declaring “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.
HIIDE devices feature special identifying biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints, as well as biographical information, which are used to gain access to large centralised databases.
According to the insiders, it remains unclear how much of the US military’s biometric database pertaining to the Afghan population has been compromised by the Taliban.
The sources were “worried that sensitive data they [HIIDE devices] contain could be used by the Taliban”.
The international group Human Rights First, in turn, wrote on Twitter that “we understand that the Taliban is now likely to have access to various biometric databases and equipment in Afghanistan”.
“This technology is likely to include access to a database with fingerprints and iris scans, and include facial recognition technology”, the group added.
Brian Dooley, a senior adviser to Human Rights First, told a BBC podcast that with little information on the matter in place, “a very educated guess would say that [the Taliban] either has or is about to get their hands on an enormous amount of biometric data”.
Media reports meanwhile quoted an unnamed female Kabul resident as saying Taliban fighters were making house-to-house inspections using a “biometrics machine”. In a separate interview with the magazine New Scientist, an Afghan official claimed that biometric infrastructure was currently in the hands of the Taliban.Afghanistan fell to the Taliban on 15 August, which was followed by the government’s collapse and President Ashraf Ghani leaving the country for the United Arab Emirates. Many countries scrambled to evacuate their diplomatic missions and citizens amid the insecure situation.
The Taliban, for its part, said in a statement last week that “the Islamic Emirate assures all its citizens that it will, as always, protect their life, property and honour and create a peaceful and secure environment for its beloved nation”. The statement announced an “amnesty” for “all those who have previously worked and helped the invaders [Western troops], or are now standing in the ranks of the corrupt Administration of Kabul”.