Key adviser to Karzai, member of parliament assassinated in suicide assault in Kabul

The Taliban claimed credit for the assassinations of a key adviser to President Hamid Karzai and a member of the Afghan parliament during what appears to be a complex suicide assault in the capital of Kabul this evening. Today’s assassinations come just days after President Karzai’s influential brother was gunned down in his office in Kandahar.

Jan Mohammad Khan, the former governor of Uruzgan province who had become one of Karzai’s top advisers, and Mohammad Hashim Watanwal, a parliamentarian from Uruzgan, were among several people who were killed during a terror assault at Khan’s home.

The attack began when a suicide bomber detonated outside the gate to Khan’s home, according to Pajwhok Afghan News. Several heavily-armed fighters then stormed Khan’s compound. During the suicide attack and subsequent fighting, at least three of Khan’s guards and one of his sons were killed. Several family members are said to be held hostage. Afghan security forces, with the aid of Coalition forces, have cordoned the area to deal with the hostage situation.

Khan, a senior Popalzai tribal leader, was one of several “key proxies for the Karzais” in the Afghan south, according to a report titled “Power and Politics in Kandahar,” which was published in 2010 by the Institute for the Study of War. The report observes that Khan and his nephew Matiullah Khan “have worked systematically to undermine their tribal rivals in Uruzgan” and “have driven several key leaders and tribes to the Taliban.” Khan and Matiullah worked to consolidate power among the Popalzai tribe in Uruzgan the same way that President Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was assassinated last week, did in Kandahar. In 2006, the Dutch demanded that President Karzai remove Khan from the post of governor before taking over security in Uruzgan. Karzai complied, and Khan moved to Kabul to work for the president.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Pajwhok Afghan News that the group was responsible for today’s attack on Khan’s compound, and claimed several policemen were also killed during the assault.

Today’s suicide attack was likely carried out by the Kabul Attack Network, which is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate as well. The network’s tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

The Kabul Attack Network is led by Dawood (or Daud) and Taj Mir Jawad, military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Dawood is the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kabul, while Taj Mir Jawad is a top commander in the Haqqani Network.

The last major attack carried out by the Kabul Attack Network was on June 28, when a suicide assault team attacked the Continental, a hotel frequented by foreigners in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The deaths of Khan and Watanwal make for three major assassinations against top Afghan leaders, two of whom were close to President Karzai, in less than a week. On July 12, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the power broker for Kandahar, was gunned down in his office. Two days later, at a ceremony held at a mosque, a suicide bomber killed two top clerics.

The Taliban also claimed to have assassinated Ahmed Wali Karzai, and issued a statement warning others that the same fate is in store for those who work with the Afghan government and Coalition forces.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan calls on those Afghans who work in the ranks of the invaders of Afghanistan, particularly, this call is directed at those influential, educated and experienced Afghans to rethink and abandon their subservience to the non-believing invaders. Stand with your people and support the Mujahideen,” the Taliban said in a statement on their website, Voice of Jihad. “If you are not able to do this, then at least leave the support of the non-believers and start ordinary life. With all these, if you are intent on continuing your submissive work, then every one of you will meet the same like general Doud and Ahmad Wali Karzai….”

“Doud” refers to General Dawood Dawood, the former top police commander in the Afghan north who was assassinated along with Mawlawi Shah Jahan, the chief of police for Takhar province, in a Taliban suicide attack on May 28. Major General Markus Kneip, Regional Commander North for the International Security Assistance Force, was wounded in the attack.

While the assassination of Ahmed Wali has not been confirmed as a Taliban operation, US intelligence official have told The Long War Journal that it appears the Taliban are responsible.

The assassination of Ahmed Wali and Khan “may be part of an organized campaign against the Popalzai leadership,” one official told The Long War Journal. “Someone has done their homework and are able to reach the top power brokers linked to [President] Karzai.”

The Taliban have successfully executed other high-profile assassinations in the recent past. Since the spring of 2010, the list of those killed in the Taliban’s assassination campaign in Kandahar includes the provincial chief of police, the deputy governor of Kandahar, the district chief for Arghandab, and the deputy mayor of Kandahar City.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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