“He said, ‘I repent. I will never do what I did again. I am tired of fighting,’ ” said Haji Mohammed, recalling Asadullah’s promises.
Some were suspicious.
“The whole time I always knew he was an enemy of Afghans and Muslims,” Paktin said.
But three elders vouched for Asadullah’s sincerity, meeting the Afghan Local Police’s requirement and allowing him to become a member of the force.
The ALP is the only branch of the Afghan security forces that assigns its recruits to work in their native districts, using familial and tribal connections to present a united front against the insurgency. It’s a force that the U.S. military calls essential — with American support, it is due to triple, from 10,000 men to 30,000, in the next two years.
“The Taliban are very threatened by the ALP because the significant terrain, the key terrain in the counterinsurgency, is the human terrain. And the Afghan Local Police deny the human terrain to the Taliban,” Marine Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, told Congress last month.
But recruiting local men in districts such as Yayakhil, still dominated by the insurgency, presents one of the program’s biggest challenges.
“Most people in Yayakhil had some ties to the Taliban in the past,” said Daulat Khan Zadran, the Paktika police chief.
ALP recruiters often find themselves trying to discern whether former insurgents such as Asadullah are genuine about their conversion or simply looking for an opportunity to attack American or Afghan personnel. Four days before Asadullah’s attack, another ALP officer fatally shot a U.S. soldier in Paktika.
Asadullah received about 20 days of training in the ALP, probably from Afghans and Americans, officials said. He then moved to a small outpost with about two dozen officers. After years of hunting men in Afghan uniforms, he was now living among them in a barracks with four other police officers. Armed with a newly issued AK-47, he waited about a month before carrying out his attack.
Early Friday, after lacing his colleagues’ meal with sleeping pills, Asadullah apparently picked up that rifle and killed four men in one barracks and five in another. One of the dead was a civilian who happened to be on the base. Asadullah fled the outpost in a police pickup with two accomplices, 10 rifles and 25 magazines.
Within hours of the attack and Asadullah’s disappearance, a local council met to decide how his family should be punished. Its members voted to destroy properties belonging to Asadullah’s brother, cousin and grandfather. Villagers rushed to set them aflame.
“The tribe wanted to send the message that this kind of killing is not acceptable,” Paktin said.
Meanwhile, NATO and Afghan forces worked to track down Asadullah. On Sunday morning, officials said they had located him. And they were planning their final retribution.
“We know where he is,” said Ali Shah Hamidzai, the nation’s top ALP commander, “and we are going to kill him.”
Special correspondent Sayed Salahuddin contributed to this report.