YAKAWLANG, Afghanistan—Going house to house in January 2001, Taliban fighters rounded up hundreds of men in this Shiite town and nearby villages. Then they executed their captives, leaving piles of bodies in the snow-covered fields.
These days, a Shiite flag lauding Imam Hussain, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, flies next to the Taliban’s white banner atop Yakawlang’s district government compound. Most of the Taliban fighters and officials here are local Shiites who joined the Sunni Islamist insurgency years ago, as the downfall of the American-backed Afghan republic became increasingly likely. Bitter memories of the 2001 killings, they say, influenced this switch.