Looks like those policemen in Ghazni didn’t defect to the Taliban after all

Last week, the New York Times reported that the police force of Khogeyani district in Ghazni defected to the Taliban. The claim was backed up by statements from pseudonymous Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid and Mohammed Yasin,  the district police chief of Khogeyani.

[…] 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 Monday morning 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 Mr. 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 article instigated hand-wringing on the part of Afghanistan-watchers over what a mass defection of police officers from a front line province said about the strength of the Taliban at this point in the war, and what the prospect of more defections would mean for the future of the Afghan security forces.

But it now appears Yasin was wrong and Mujahid was, as is usually the case, peddling bullshit to the press.

Pajhwok reports that the “defectors” are turning up dead.

GHAZNI CITY (PAN): Dead bodies of five policemen and two unidentified men have been found in Ghazni and Maidan Wardak provinces, officials said on Saturday.

The bodies, said to be of the policemen captured by the Taliban fighters during an attack on the Khogyani district in Ghazni, were found in the Sibki area of Chak town of Wardak, the governor’s spokesman said.

Shahidullah Shahid told Pajhwok Afghan News police had been ordered to shift the bodies to the district headquarters. Of the 17 policemen seized by the Taliban five days back, the bodies of four were found in the Khwaja Omari district on Thursday.

Although the fighters said the police surrendered to them soon after the assault on the district headquarters, they have not yet commented on the killings.

Update: Via Twitter, Josh Foust reminds that “they still could have defected. We have no idea really.”

That’s true. One possibility (among several) is that some of the policemen really did defect, and set up their colleagues to be captured during the defection. In this scenario, it’s possible that the real defectors were then asked to kill the captives to prove that they had truly gone over to the side of the Taliban.

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