Devices contain biometric data on friendly Afghans such as iris scans, fingerprints, biographical information, says website.
ANKARA (AA) – The Taliban have seized US military biometrics devices that could be used to identify Afghan nationals who “assisted coalition forces,” a US website said on Wednesday, citing on-duty and former military officials.
The Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE) devices were reportedly seized last week by the Taliban, reported The Intercept, citing a Joint Special Operations Command official and three former US military personnel.
The website underlined that military sources are worried that the “sensitive data” the devices contain could be used by the Taliban.
“HIIDE devices contain identifying biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints, as well as biographical information, and are used to access large centralized databases,” it said.
“It’s unclear how much of the US military’s biometric database on the Afghan population has been compromised.”
Afghans who have worked for Western governments or groups have voiced fear of retribution by the Taliban, though the group has publicly disavowed any such revenge efforts.
‘Additional tools’ needed to process data
In the article, the sources said that besides being able to track terrorists and other insurgents, the devices also contain biometric data – widely collected and used in ID cards – on Afghans who assisted the US.
“We processed thousands of locals a day, had to ID, sweep for suicide vests, weapons, intel gathering,” said a US military contractor, adding that HIIDE “was used as a biometric ID tool to help ID locals working for the coalition.”
The US Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment on the report.
An Army Special Operations veteran told The Intercept that the Taliban may probably need “additional tools” to process the HIIDE data, but that “Pakistan would assist with this.”
“The Taliban doesn’t have the gear to use the data but the ISI do,” an ex-US Special Operations official said, referring to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
It is not known how much of the Afghan population’s biometric data were recorded by the HIIDE system and how much of the information was captured by the Taliban.
This spring the war between the Taliban and Afghan forces intensified as foreign troops announced their withdrawal from the country by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the US invasion.
In recent weeks the Taliban made dramatic military advances and on Sunday took control of the capital as Afghan government forces fled or surrendered. Former President Ashraf Ghani also left the country.
The Intercept is a US-owed news website dedicated to what it describes as “adversarial journalism.”