Anand Gopal writes: At a checkpoint on a dirt road in southeastern Afghanistan in 2012, Rahim Sarobi, a farmer, braked to a stop behind a knot of idling cars. Up ahead, Afghan gunmen were piled into the back of a Toyota Hilux. On the ground, tied to the rear fender by their wrists, lay two bloodied men, laboring to breathe.
Everyone was ordered out of their vehicles. The burly checkpoint commander, known simply as Azizullah, said the unfortunate pair had not slowed sufficiently at the checkpoint, and only the Taliban don’t slow down. But Mr. Sarobi and fellow motorists recognized the men as farmers from their village. They pleaded, but Azizullah would not listen. The motorists were ordered to follow the pickup as it dragged the men along six miles of rock-studded road. By the time the convoy reached Azizullah’s base, the pair were dead. Their bodies were left decomposing for days, a warning to anyone who thought of disobeying Azizullah.
Mr. Sarobi told me that story in Paktia Province last February. It echoes ominously against President Obama’s announcement on Tuesday that about 9,800 American troops will stay in Afghanistan after most have withdrawn this year. Special Operations Forces will continue training Afghans and assisting in counterterrorism. And if the current pattern holds, we can expect them, alongside the Central Intelligence Agency, to keep partnering with commanders like Azizullah to fight the Taliban.
Bear in mind that Azizullah is not a member of the Afghan army. He does not work for the Afghan National Police. He is not, in fact, under the authority of the Afghan government at all. [Continue reading…]