A formation of Afghan Army soldiers stand in formation before being dismissed to support the U.S. Army and Taliban forces.
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Controversy engulfed both U.S. Cental Command (CENTCOM) and the Taliban on Monday, when both were revealed to be outsourcing combat operations to the Afghan National Army (ANA).
"Talk about awkward," said a sheepish Maj. John Redfield, spokesman for CENTCOM. "We were completely mortified and will seek to deconflict this situation."
CENTCOM were not the only ones dealing with the fallout of the handover of Afghanistan to the ANA for security.
Islamist radical rank and file around the globe took to Twitter, Facebook, and message boards to denounce the newly expanded policy, which has apparently been in use for nearly three years. The backlash of the faithful brought a firm response from Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.
"Make no mistake brothers, the umma is still threatened by the unbeliever," Mujahid told his followers, insisting that 'home-grown jihad' was still useful. But, he stressed, "we have to recognize we cannot rely on the Taliban-industrial complex Osama warned us about. We must find new ways to fight the infidel — by using worthless Afghan Army soldiers."
"You may call this new breed 'contractors'," Mujahid continued. "I call them brothers! The frenemy of my enemy can sometimes be our friend ... or enemy, depending on the day, but fear not! We will use these serial traitors to our advantage at least 70 percent of the time! You know. Like Pakistan."
The statement from the spokesman explained that over the last decade, the Taliban had spent well over $20 million on war, "helping to explode the infidel where ever he may be found."
But in a refrain familiar to American troops as well, Mujahid complains about inefficiencies. "We cannot continue to spend unwisely in an era of dwindling resources. That is why the future belongs to the ANA."
While Mujahid's statement elicited cheers online from contingents of homegrown radicals and fiscal hawks — both of whom took the new policy as a sign of the end of deployments — there remained stiff resistance from Taliban veteran rank-and-file.
"I have risked my whole life, fighting in the Hindu Kush, risking dysentery and drone strike," lamented Ismail Gul, a 30-year-old Taliban veteran from Pakistan. "Now we are being told that it's not worth it by [Taliban Leader] Mullah Omar? Why? I can't be an Afghan Army member. I'm not even literate."
Some members also complained about pay and benefits.
"How are we saving money?" asked Dawoos, a Talib who gave only his first name. "These ANA pigs get paid as much as $2 a day! That's ten times what I make? Will they get 72 virgins in Paradise, too?"
Still, others were more hopeful. "Whether it's Aleppo, Benghazi, Kabul or even Cairo, it's not like there's a shortage of work," said Adeel Sarbanri, a 21-year-old fighter with Tehrik-i-Pakistan Taliban. "And with the Americans abdicating their position in Muslim lands, think of easy time we'll have fighting other third world troops when they're not helping out!"
At CENTCOM, lawyers were busy reviewing contracts with the ANA and proposing changes to ensure a firewall between ANA operations conducted at U.S. taxpayer expense and those done on behalf of the Taliban.
"In principle, there's nothing wrong with the ANA accepting contracts from other parties," Maj. Redfield noted. "But there have to be protections and internal controls to avoid conflicts of interest for all parties."
"Apparently, that was not done in this case," he added. "We can't have our funds subsidizing attacks on us, or our allies. That would be nuts."