Atahullah’s father later expressed concern that members of the ALP, including his son, felt that too much was being asked of them while little was being offered to the village. “Other villages have schools, roads and clinics, and we have been saying this again and again, but we don’t have anything here,” said the father, Haji Kader Khan. But the British said the Taliban had been threatening to kill Atahullah, which also played a role in his resignation.
Members of the local police force do not wear their uniform when they are on patrol, something that the British see less as a discipline problem and more as a security risk because it makes it hard to distinguish the insurgents from the police.
“Until one of them gets shot . . . they are not going to learn their lesson,” said a frustrated Capt. Badri Rai, who heads a team that recruits and mentors ALP in Khar Nikah.
Mistrust among villagers and within the ALP has damaged British efforts to efficiently train and recruit more police by early spring. A Taliban commander was recently heard over an intercom asking an ALP member to turn his weapons against the Western forces.
“Some of the villagers in ALP are 90 percent Taliban and 10 percent farmers. Do not let these guys inside the checkpoint compound,” said Rifleman Subash Gurung of the British army.
But there are some young men in the ALP who give the British reason for hope. One of them is an ethnically Pashtun man known only as Torzan who stands 5 feet tall and is referred to as the “Lion of the Green Zone.” After his brother was killed in an insurgent attack and his son was kidnapped by the Taliban, Torzan decided to pick up an AK-47 and side with the British forces in the area.
Torzan said the Taliban has spread word among the locals that the British forces are leaving soon and that the ALP will have to bear the brunt of the battle once the foreigners are gone.
That worries prospective recruits in the area, including the newly elected ALP commander, Khalifa Atullah, a charismatic man who once fought against the Russians. Atullah said he understands that the British are hoping to hand over several checkpoints and patrol bases to his men. But he said his men still need more help to do what is asked of them.
Atullah’s men receive from the British a uniform, an AK-47, a box of 7.62 mm rounds and the mandate to fight the Taliban to protect their village. But he said that is not enough.
“We need sleeping bags, blankets, and we need heavy weapons,” he said.
British soldiers say they cannot trust the ALP with heavy-duty weaponry. Late last year, members of the ALP were implicated in killings, rapes, arbitrary detentions and land grabs by Human Rights Watch.
But a British political officer in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah said the ALP remains a “manageable risk.”
“We can maintain a bar and say anything beyond that is unacceptable, but we can’t enforce our rules onto them,” he said. “At the end of the day, it is their country and they have to run it in their own way.”