In the scorching heat of a June afternoon, Abdullah Abdullah, an Afghan policeman in his mid-thirties, sits on the roof of a remote police checkpoint in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. A makeshift screen, fashioned from the hood of a rusty farm tractor shields him from the sun. Nearby rests a battered AK-47. Immediately by his side is an old Sanyo radio, playing Pashto songs. “This is my best friend,” he says of the radio, pulling it onto his lap. “When my conversation with the bullets is over, he is the one I can speak to.” Dozens of dead, muddy batteries at his feet testify to the radio’s longstanding service. As he rotates the radio’s broken knob, he speculates that the Taliban could be preparing to attack that very evening.
Abdullah and his fellow policemen are always wary about the possibility of Taliban attacks on their checkpoints. Without adequate resources or manpower, such installations have become prime Taliban targets. Just that morning, Taliban fighters stormed a post about six miles north of Lashkar Gah, killing eight policemen.
When some members of the police were reported missing following the attack, Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial administration, suggested that some of them may have had ties with the Taliban – raising suspicions about the internal integrity of the force itself. Abdullah says there are indeed some corrupt policemen who engage in heinous acts, but he insists that he and his comrades are willing to fight the Taliban to the end. His only wish is that the police were better paid and protected by the government.