Senior Afghan peace council member assassinated in Kabul

Arsala Rahmani, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council who had served as a deputy education minister during Taliban rule in Afghanistan, was shot and killed while driving in Kabul today.

A car pulled alongside Rahmani’s vehicle and a gunman opened fire, killing him immediately. The assassins escaped.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that his group was responsible for Rahmani’s assassination.

“Others are involved in this,” Mujahid said, according to Reuters. “We don’t believe it’s a big blow to peace efforts because the peace council has achieved nothing.”

Rahmani was one of several Taliban commanders to reconcile with the Afghan government after the US invasion following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He was named to the Afghan High Peace Council two years ago, and has been optimistic about efforts to strike a peace agreement with the Taliban.

Rahmani is the second member of the Afghan High Peace Council to have been assassinated in Kabul in seven months. On Sept. 20, 2011, a suicide bomber killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief of the High Peace Council and former president of Afghanistan. The suicide bomber gained entrance to Rabbani’s home under the guise of conducting negotiations on behalf of the Taliban. The suicide bomb was hidden in his turban.

The Taliban had initially claimed credit for the suicide attack on Rabbani, and then retracted the claim.

The International Security Assistance Force condemned today’s assassination of Rahmani, and said it was an effort to derail the moribund peace process.

“The only possible aim of this attack is to intimidate those, who like Rahmani, want to help make Afghanistan a better place for its citizens and the region,” ISAF said in a statement released on its website. “This attack is clear evidence that those who oppose the legitimate government of Afghanistan have absolutely no interest in supporting the peace process on any level but through murder, thuggery, and intimidation.”

Attempts by NATO and the US to get the Taliban to conduct negotiations have collapsed over the past year. The US and NATO are hoping to reach a political settlement with the Taliban’s top leadership as the Coalition draws down forces and ends combat operations in 2014.

The Taliban have denied conducting negotiations, and instead have characterized contacts with the US as “dialogue” for arranging a prisoner exchange. In mid-March, the Taliban announced the “suspension of dialogue” with the US, and said they would continue to wage “jihadi” operations in Afghanistan [see LWJ report, Taliban suspend ‘dialogue’ with US].

Rahmani’s assassination occurred as the Taliban appear to be conducting a purge of leaders who have shown a willingness to negotiate with the Afghan government. This spring, the Taliban executed Mohammad Ismail, the former Deputy Military Council Chairman for the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, after accusing him of engaging in backdoor talks with the Afghan government and of accepting large sums of money to participate in such talks. In addition, 26 other Taliban leaders have been killed for talking with the Afghan government over the past several months [see LWJ reports,Taliban leader confirms infighting and vows revenge, plots to kill Quetta Shura leadership, and Afghan intel confirms death of senior Afghan Taliban leader, possibly 25 others].

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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  • mike merlo says:

    Taliban(Mullah Omar) + al Qaeda(Zawahiri) + ISI(?) = Murder Inc. Hekmatyar’s publicly stating his backing away from from negotiations as reported by the TLWJ just the other day is just another indicator of these dark forces at work.
    One must really wonder what the pirates opposing the Afghan government hope to gain from this activity. Just a cursory look at the Afghan’s people response any time an individual of Rahmani’s personage is murdered reveals a strengthening of their resolve in resisting the Taliban.
    As tragic as this event & those related to it are they are actually constructively contributing to US efforts. These type of events go the core of what Hearts and Minds is all about.

  • Paul D says:

    Pakistan related?As long as there is peace US aid is not needed!

  • Joe says:

    From what I understand the ISI has to be the main suspect in this. This harms the Taliban if they were found to be involved, the guy is a 70 year old Mullah who is very much like them in almost every way.
    The only people who have a motive I could discern is the ISI, which clearly wants to ensure that they alone have a voice in what happens in the Afghan ‘peace process’.

  • The people who killed Rabbani are the ones who killed this man and are the ones who carried out 9/11, killing of pearl and will soon take over Afghanistan after withdrawal of ISAF. I think Romney needs to be elected if Taliban take over of Afghanistan is to be prevented.

  • ahmed41 says:

    Even if the Taliban do have some meaningful *dialogue* with the Afghan government and with the US authorities,
    can one be sure who the inner Taliban are ?
    Can the Taliban , of any variety, be trusted to stick to the ideals of a democratic Afghanistan and the constitution of the country ?
    After 2014, will it be a slow process of murder, assassinations and more murder, or will it be a new civil war and internal strife ?

  • Neo says:

    The message: Don’t even think about cutting your own peace deal on the side, or become part of the peace process, or we will kill you. Who: The usual hard line suspects, take your pick.
    I think it is less of a question of who will participate in peace talks, but rather who doesn’t participate in the fighting. I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few potential Pashtoon fighters are going to sit things out, and see what the battlefield looks like in 2014. All but the smallest factions will be required to ante up a certain amount of resources dedicated to the current fight, but I don’t see these groups knocking themselves out until more U.S. troops have left Afghanistan.
    In the mean time the Taliban will concentrate on high profile attacks in Kabul, Kandahar, and Helmand Province, trying to make an impression without expending too many valuable resources. The problem with such a strategy is it assumes the Afghan Army will be totally ineffectual. I no longer think that can be assumed. Taliban will at some point have to expend a considerable amount of resources showing up the Afghan Army. It’s too early too tell how things will go with the Afghan Army.

  • JimBoMo says:

    @ mike merlo
    Reports indicated silenced pistol, single shot to the head, @ traffic stop in safe area of Kabul, single gunman who disappeared – sounds like an assassination preformed by a professional who had good intel, reconnaissance, planning and support – aka work done by either a highly skilled independent operator who would have been very expensive to hire or by an employee of a state power. In either case, it points towards state or semi-state sponsorship on the assassination.
    If true, the actions are brazen and suggests an opponent who is feeling either (1) very confident (impudent?); or (2) threatened and therefore willing to take actions that they know would be provocative . Based on the little I know I’d speculate (1) but others are far better to comment than I am.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if passions were very high on the Afgan/NATO side. I will be very interested to see how the Coalition responds.

  • Paul D says:

    Pakistan dont want peace unless their people are in charge of Afghanistan and the US aid continues.They will collapse without US handouts.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ JimBoMo
    “…very expensive to hire or state employee..,” I doubt the assassin was either one. If there’s one thing the ‘Terrorist’s’ have a dearth is assassin’s. IMO this assassination point’s directly to Zawahiri.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    I agree with Mike. This was either an Al Qaida op or a Taliban/Haqqani op with a little ISI thrown in for good measure…I trust the ISI as far as I can spit.


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