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Afghan local police group deserts to Taliban

The Afghan Army is adjusting as NATO peacekeepers leave. Above, a soldier in Pech Valley.

John Cantlie/Getty Images

The Afghan Army is adjusting as NATO peacekeepers leave. Above, a soldier in Pech Valley.

KABUL — A group of Afghan militia troops has joined the Taliban-led insurgents, officials said Wednesday, apparently the first surrender of its kind by the force created as part of a US initiative to keep the militants at bay and help break the battlefield stalemate.

There were few details and conflicting estimates about the number of men who changed sides in the restive northwestern Badghis Province Tuesday evening. One Afghan security official put the number at 41.

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The force is known as the Afghan Local Police and was set up in 2010 during the peak of the war to help NATO coalition and Afghan troops prevent the influence and spread of the insurgency.

The men who surrendered in Badghis were armed with ­assault rifles, said Ghulam Sarwar, a local lawmaker, citing a provincial official. Interior ministry and security officials confirmed the surrenders and the accounts provided by Sarwar.

‘‘This [surrender] may not have a big impact on the security situation of the area, but raises doubts about the loyalties of those employed by Afghan ­Local Police,’’ Sarwar said.

The Taliban confirmed that the militia group had joined its ranks and put the number of surrendered men at 86.

The Afghan Local Police, composed of men from the communities that they police, was seen by some Afghans as a successful effort in the fight against the Taliban.

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But dozens of its members have been killed in Taliban attacks in recent months in various parts of the country.

Deadly attacks against foreign troops by some men serving in the ­Afghan security forces have been on the rise, but there has been no report of such an act by Afghan Local Police against NATO and US soldiers.

Another such attack occurred Tuesday. An Afghan soldier opened fire on NATO soldiers, wounding five before fleeing, officials said.

In line with the military coalition’s policy, the NATO officials would not give details on the nationality of the wounded soldiers, but Afghan officials said they were American.

Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman for the governor of Wardak, said the Afghan soldier entered a small NATO base near a village in the Sayed Abad district of Wardak before turning his gun on the soldiers.

The latest attack comes only two days after three British soldiers were killed by a member of the Afghan police force in southern Helmand Province.

Material from The New York Times was used in this report.

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