(The National): When Lieutenant Mohammad Amin and his comrades first spotted small drones near their check post early last year, they dismissed them as toys being used by young Afghans from the city close by. “These were toy drones, operated remotely through smartphones,” said Lt Amin, who is using a pseudonym for fear of Taliban reprisals. But they soon realised the drones were being operated by Taliban fighters close to their post, a strategic checkpoint northeast of the provincial capital of Kunduz, a northern Afghan province that has fallen to Taliban sieges multiple times in the past three years. “We noticed several times that the besarnisheen were being used for videos recording the Afghan security forces, and later for targeting us,” he said, using the Dari word for unmanned drones. Afghan soldiers have shot down many of these devices only to find they were not military-grade drones, but instead commercially-available quadcopters used for surveillance and modified to carry small explosives that were being dropped on Afghan bases. “Once we shot one of the besarnisheen and next time they sent one with a mortar attached. It fell on our base and detonated, killing one of our soldiers and injuring one other,” he described. Military drones have long been used, especially by the US forces, in Afghanistan and have been credited with keeping the war in favour of the Afghan government. Foreign forces conduct regular attacks on Taliban areas and posts using drones but increasingly in the last year, the Taliban have also adopted the practice in attacks across the country, albeit with commercial rather than military-grade models. Drone attacks, similar to the one described by Lt Amin, were also reported in check posts across Logar, Balkh, Paktia and Faryab provinces in the last three months. In one incident, reported in November by local outlet Tolo News, an explosive was dropped inside the Kunduz governor’s compound, killing four soldiers and injuring six who were playing volleyball on the grounds. While the drones used by the Taliban aren’t as sophisticated as those given to the Afghan forces by the US, they can still be quite dangerous, experts say. “Not only does it provide the Taliban with pseudo “air-support”, but it also allows them to inflict harm against ANDSF (Afghan National Defence Security Forces) without putting any of their foot soldier’s lives in danger,” Mr Saber Ibrahimi, researcher at the Centre on International Cooperation, said.