The governor declined to discuss Matiullah, saying he was busy. Maj. Gen. Zahir Azimi, the Afghan army spokesman in Kabul, said the army had had great success in Oruzgan, working closely with Matiullah's police.
Despite Matiullah's successes, the Taliban still maintains a presence here.
Insurgents have mounted two deadly suicide bombings in Tarin Kowt in recent weeks, and roadside bombs are a constant threat. On Dec. 26, a turncoat police officer and Taliban cohorts killed three of Matiullah's cops and wounded two others as the men slept inside a police post less than three miles from Matiullah's office.
Oruzgan's lucrative opium crop gets to market primarily via roads controlled by Matiullah's men. Yet he denies any role in drug trafficking, saying his police recently seized and burned 3 tons of opium on a local road, arresting 18 men.
The chief also denies accusations by rivals that he has colluded with the Taliban. "Impossible," he said. "I'm fighting them.... I'm stronger than they are, so why would I need to work with them?"
ISAF convoys have been well protected from the Taliban on the Kandahar-Tarin Kowt road, he said. But over the last decade, he said, 470 of his men have been killed in Taliban attacks there.
Each week, dozens of supplicants line up in Tarin Kowt to implore Matiullah for cash or help. He recently boosted teachers' salaries by $100 a month each, he said. He pays for student scholarships in Kabul, and for food and clothing for the poor and dispossessed.
"The government is supposed to provide all this, but they don't. I do," he said.
And still the demands come.
A police officer approached the chief at his desk to request money for a police training course in Kabul. The Interior Ministry had refused to pay, he complained.
Matiullah shrugged and reached into his pocket. He withdrew a bundle of cash the size of a pomegranate and peeled off several large bills. The officer bowed and saluted.
Next was a leathery old man with a soiled cloak and calloused hands. In a high, squeaky voice, Haji Abdul Wadud poured out a tale of woe: Heavy rain had flooded his village in nearby Shamansor. He had pleaded with the governor for help but was turned away.
And another thing: The village could use a mosque, he told the chief.
Matiullah gave a dry laugh. He told an officer to help the man write a letter to the governor demanding help. The chief himself would sign it.
"If he doesn't help you, come back to me," Matiullah said.
And the mosque? the old man asked.
Matiullah patted the elder's bony arm. "It's winter now, and rainy," he said. "But in the spring you will have your mosque."
Special correspondent Hashmat Baktash contributed to this report