Afghan and Western officials said they uncovered those details in conversations with Asadullah’s family and friends after the new police recruit and Taliban sleeper agent apparently drugged his colleagues and shot them in the head while they slept.
The incident is one of the bloodiest cases of fratricide in the 10-year-old war and comes amid a surge in attacks by rogue Afghan army and police personnel on their Afghan and American colleagues. At least 16 NATO service members have been killed by men in Afghan army and police uniforms since January, an increase compared with the same period in previous years.
The attacks have sparked new tension among the troops waging war in Afghanistan and have raised concerns about the apparent ease with which the insurgency is able to infiltrate Afghan security forces. But Asadullah’s path to Friday’s attack is a more intimate betrayal than most, a story of the Taliban’s ability to turn members of the same tribe against one another, and to pit son against father.
About four years ago, the Taliban began plotting the assassination of Asadullah’s father, who was a government official and religious leader in the Yayakhil district of eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. Ehsanullah, who like his son and many other Afghans used only one name, had long preached against jihad, and his public opposition to the Taliban in an insurgent-heavy region made him an obvious target, according to Haji Mohammed, the district governor, who said he is close to the family.
Before the Taliban finalized its assassination plans, fighters met with then-18-year-old Asadullah. He had already begun talking about the value of defeating U.S. and Afghan forces and rebelling against his father’s politics, officials said. Some local residents considered Asadullah a peripheral Taliban member from his early teenage years. When insurgents informed him of the plans to kill his father, Asadullah “granted them approval,” according to a U.S. official who had been briefed by Afghan security and intelligence personnel.
After Ehsanullah was killed, “we told [Asadullah] that his father was a martyr, but he refused to accept that. He said his father was vile. I could tell then that he was a traitor,” Mohammed said.
The Afghan government compensated the family for the father’s loss by sending Asadullah to Mecca — a common reparation for relatives of assassinated government workers and fallen troops.
Not long after he returned from the pilgrimage, Asadullah became a full-fledged insurgent, spending weeks in Quetta and Wana, both considered Taliban havens in Pakistan, according to Afghan security officials. He fought for three years, vanishing for long stretches before returning for brief stays with his five younger brothers. Two of those brothers were detained for interrogation after Friday’s attack.