A clandestine network of operatives working for the Taliban infiltrated government ministries, businesses, universities, and U.S.-funded aid projects years before the Afghan government’s fall. “We had agents in every organization and department,” Mawlawi Mohammad Salim Saad, a senior Taliban leader, boasted to The Wall Street Journal. His men, according to the Journal, were members of an underground force loyal to the Haqqani network—many of whom carefully cultivated a Western appearance to put them “above suspicion,” as one undercover recruiter claimed.
After the Taliban’s siege on Kabul and other Afghan cities, the agents reportedly revealed themselves, aiding the organization’s seizure of control from within. “The units we had already present in Kabul took control of the strategic locations,” Saad claimed of his urban operatives.
The Journal further reported that these agents played a role in taking over Kabul on Aug. 15. One mid-level commander, who clandestinely worked at his family’s Kabul gasoline-trading business, said he and 12 colleagues were mobilized that day to take over an intelligence service compound and halt the destruction of documents. Other agents were sent to Kabul University, the city’s Institute of Archaeology, and the airport, where they secured its perimeter until the U.S. forces fully withdrew from the country.