Taliban assassinate key district governor in Kandahar


Haji-Abdul-Jabbar.JPG

Haji Abdul Jabbar, the district governor of the Arghandab district, from a US military news report posted on DVIDS on May 25, 2010.

The Taliban assassinated an important ally in a district seen as vital to securing Kandahar province.

Haji Abdul Jabbar, his son, and driver were killed after the Taliban detonated a bomb near their vehicle inside Kandahar City earlier today. Jabbar was the district governor of the Arghandab district, which lies just north of the provincial capital of Kandahar City.

The US has placed great emphasis on turning Arghandab "into a working model of peace and stability," and Jabbar was the focus of a May 25 military news report on the district. The US has poured in aid money to help revitalize the farming community in Arghandab. The military has described the district as "the country's breadbasket."

The assassination of Jabbar is the second major Taliban blow against the district in the past week. On June 10, a young Taliban suicide bomber detonated at a wedding in a village in Arghandab. The attack killed 40 people. Some of the men at the wedding support the police or were members of a local anti-Taliban militia.

The Taliban have carried out a campaign of assassination and intimidation against tribal leaders and politicians who back the government and Coalition forces in Kandahar. Over the past several months, more than 20 senior officials, including the deputy mayor of Kandahar, have been killed by Taliban assassins.

The US has been targeting top Taliban leaders and facilitators in Kandahar in the run-up to the long awaited operation to dislodge the Taliban from the province, which is the birthplace of the Taliban and a major power center for the group. Over the past four months, more than 70 mid-level Taliban commanders have been killed during a series of special operations raids in and around Kandahar City, The National Post reported.

Two top Taliban leaders have been killed in Kandahar since late May. On May 30, Afghan and Coalition special operations forces killed Mullah Zergay, who led the Taliban in Kandahar City and in the vital districts of Zhari and Arghandab. On May 29, Afghan and Coalition forces killed Haji Amir, who was described as one of the top two Taliban leaders in all of Kandahar province.

The International Security Assistance Force has placed great emphasis on Kandahar and is deploying the bulk of its forces en route to Afghanistan to the province. President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have said that progress must be made by December in Kandahar, and in other key areas in the south, east, and north, in order for Western nations to continue their support for the war.

But a Department of Defense survey of the situation in key districts in Afghanistan paints a grim picture of Afghan public support for the government in the south. In Kandahar and Helmand, the two provinces considered to be the key to the Taliban's power in the south, the majority of the population is considered to be ambivalent toward the Afghan government and the Coalition, or sympathetic to or supportive of the Taliban.

Of the 11 of Kandahar's 13 districts assessed earlier this year, one district (Kandahar City) supported the government, three districts were considered neutral, six were sympathetic to the Taliban, and one supported the Taliban. Of the 11 of Helmand's 13 districts assessed, eight of the districts were considered neutral, one was sympathetic to the Taliban, and two supported the Taliban.

The situation appears equally grim in neighboring Helmand province. Of the 11 of Helmand's 13 districts assessed, eight of the districts were considered neutral, one was sympathetic to the Taliban, and two supported the Taliban.

The US has indicated that it will begin turning over security to the Afghan Army and police by July 2011 and that it will also start to withdraw its forces from the country at that time.



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READER COMMENTS: "Taliban assassinate key district governor in Kandahar"

Posted by ArneFufkin at June 15, 2010 3:08 PM ET:

This just really reminds me of that murder pervert al-Zarqawi and his overreach in Anbar. The Taliban cannot possibly be winning friends and influencing people in Afghanistan.

I recall guys like Petraeus and Conway talking about the different cultural landscape in Iraq vis a vis Afghanistan: That Afghans took every death of a civilian as a lifelong blood feud. As opposed to the Iraqis who, if paid fair reparations, would consider it Insha'Allah?

So, what does that mean for the Taliban? Or did that scenario just mean something when an invading infidel was involved?

Whatta culture they got going over there.

Posted by Cordell at June 15, 2010 11:32 PM ET:

"Of the 11 of Kandahar's 13 districts assessed earlier this year, one district (Kandahar City) supported the government, three districts were considered neutral, six were sympathetic to the Taliban, and one supported the Taliban. Of the 11 of Helmand's 13 districts assessed, eight of the districts were considered neutral, one was sympathetic to the Taliban, and two supported the Taliban.

The US has indicated that it will begin turning over security to the Afghan Army and police by July 2011 and that it will also start to withdraw its forces from the country at that time."

With the President's announcement of US troop pullouts beginning next year, is it any wonder why most Afghans express either neutrality or sympathy for the Taliban? Open support for US and ISAF soldiers sooner or later will get one killed, as was the case today for the district governor. Fear controls a population just as effectively as goodwill, and one false step can easily destroy months spent building trust and support among the locals. While Afghans may not like the Taliban, they do fear them. As the Taliban like to say, "The Americans have the watches, but we have the time."

For an Afghanistan surge to be effective, it must be an open-ended commitment. Otherwise, the Taliban will just bide their time until we leave, all the while intimidating the population with bombings and targeted assassinations to impede our progress and ensure stalemate. Obama's announcement of the surge in conjunction with the 2011 troop pullout completely undermined the entire strategy and effort. Not only are Afghans unwilling to risk their necks to help us, but American and other ISAF soldiers likely are demoralized knowing they have been given little opportunity to succeed here, both in terms of time and local support.

Hopefully, the US is rapidly building up the leadership and forces of the former Northern Alliance, enabling them to take our place when we leave. These are perhaps the only troops one can trust to keep fighting the Taliban. A long-term Northern Alliance centered proxy war -- backed by US logistics, intelligence, drones and air power -- seems to be the only viable option for beating the Taliban now.

Posted by Mr T at June 16, 2010 10:52 AM ET:

And of course, we can not transition the governance to Afghans until they fully suppor the effort. 3 out of 24 districts supprt the Government? A spointed out, that figure is probably due to intimidaton more than anything else. Afghans must step up just as the Iraqis did or they will continue to live in terror and fear, the war they have been fighting for 40 years will continue on, and their lives will be miserable and full of seath and destruction.

Plainly put, there may be some brave Afghans stepping up and joining the armies but there are several places like Kandahar and Helmand where the people are NOT doing the right thing to solve the problem. I am not clear if they are just doing their part for the jihad or if they do support the government but fear for their lives if they say so. They see what happens if you even think about supporting the government.

My guess is they are doing their part for the jihad. If so, are they not the enemy? How do we vanquish them and win them over at the same time?

Posted by Cordell at June 16, 2010 4:06 PM ET:

"After days of intense operations, the combined force succeeded in taking all key positions in the region and forcing remaining insurgents to flee the area. Afghan leaders from the combined force then met with members of the local community to plan ways the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan could assist them in keeping out the Taliban.

A member of the combined force said the local population of Shah Wali Kot were grateful to the Afghan and international forces for pushing out the insurgents who had levied heavy taxes on residents, occupied their villages and forced them to provide food and shelter to the Taliban."


Mr. T:

I suspect the above news report best reflects the sentiments of Afghan locals towards the Taliban. When no Taliban are about, locals freely complain of their abuse at the hands of these thugs. Often their actions embarrass even the Taliban's leadership, causing them to disavow the hanging of a 7-year-old boy, for example, even when all locals know or suspect they were responsible.

Posted by ArneFufkin at June 17, 2010 2:39 PM ET:

It's easy to become disheartened by the operation in Afghanistan because there really is so little kinetic engagement. It seems at times like it's just our guys driving around until they get blown up by an IED.

I am hopeful, however, whenever I view the briefings of guys like Larry Nicholson, Nick Carter, Curtis Scaparrotti et al who really do know what they are doing at all times.

The most important thing is to build trust of the local police institutions amongst the locals. As violent and oppressive as the Taliban are, the LEO cronies of Karzai in Helmand, Kandahar and other provinces were no great upgrade. In Marjah and other areas of Helmand, the Taliban were viewed as liberators from thoroughly corrupt local LEO.

Pretty much a no win scenario. I think we're on the right track, however, with General Nicholson's USMC Helmand approach: Nicholson set up a Parris Island style boot camp where prospective police candidates (2/3 of which were imported from outside the area) proved their mettle before being given power and authority.

Losers and punks don't last long in that world.

Inch by inch. That's OEF. Sadly. But I'm not as pessimistic as many. America usually succeeds, and everyone benefits in the process. Even if guys like the current CinC need to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line.