Watchman Newsletter

Bad news for �reintegration:� Afghan police unit defects en mass to Taliban (Link) - The New York Times (November 1, 2010)

For months, U.S. and Afghan officials have been promoting a plan to persuade masses of rank-and-file Taliban fighters to change sides and join the government. The tactic, known as �reintegration,� is one of the big hopes for turning the tide in the war.

But the Taliban, it appears, have reintegration plans of their own. On Monday morning, they claimed to have put them into effect.

In Khogeyani, a volatile area southwest of the capital, the entire police force on duty appears to have defected to the Taliban side. A spokesman for the Taliban said the movement�s fighters made contact with the Khogeyani�s police force, cut a deal and then sacked and burned the station. As many as 19 officers vanished, as did their guns, trucks, uniforms and food.

Even the local police chief, who missed the attack, said he suspected a defection en masse.

�This was not an attack but a plot,� said Mohammed Yasin, the chief of the Khogeyani police force. �The Taliban and the police made a deal.�

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the Afghan officers decided to defect after �learning the facts about the Taliban.�

�We never force people to join us,� said Mujahid, whose name is fictitious. �The police joined us voluntarily and are happy to work with us, and to start the holy war shoulder-to-shoulder with their Taliban brothers.�

The Taliban takeover of the station did not last long in Khogeyani, a district in Ghazni province. Musa Khan Akbarzada, the provincial governor, said his office lost contact with the police station about 5 a.m. Government forces arrived in Khogeyani about three hours later and found the station smoking and abandoned.

Akbarzada said his Afghan forces would continue searching for the missing police officers. Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said the police and the insurgents had already melted away into the countryside.

�The Taliban exist in and around the district centers, and we have our own judges, courts, district governors and other officials,� he said. �We do our guerrilla attacks and then leave the district center. This is just a building.�

In the decades of war in Afghanistan, armed groups, whether fighting for the government or for someone else, have often changed sides to join the one they believe is winning. Often, after a time, they switch back.

In Helmand province, the bodies of two Afghan female aid workers were found on a roadside Sunday; both having been shot to the death.

The women, one named Majabina and the other Nazaneen, ran a small vocational training center called Majooba Hejrawi, named for an Afghan poet. The center, in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, catered exclusively to women, who learned to sew, make clothing and cut hair, as well as how to prepare fruit preserves.

Majabina and Nazaneen were last seen Friday getting into a Toyota Corolla. Their bodies were found near the village of Tango Guzar, which lies between the towns of Marjah and Nawa.

Marjah was the target of a major U.S. and NATO military operation against the Taliban this year. Some aspects of normalcy have returned to both areas, but Taliban insurgents are fighting to retain a foothold.

Aid workers, particularly those linked to Western organizations, have often come under attack or been kidnapped or intimidated by the Taliban. Some insurgents � the deeply conservative ones � have also singled out groups that are working to improve the lives of women.

In this case, local officials said they had not figured out who might have killed Majabina and Nazaneen, if only because the women appeared to have no enemies. Majabina�s brother, in a brief interview, said he was baffled.

�We don�t know who killed my sister,� he said. �

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