Member of Afghan Peace Council Is Assassinated (NY) TIMES) By ROD NORDLAND and JAWAD SUKHANYAR KABUL, Afghanistan 05/14/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
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KABUL, Afghanistan — Mullah Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban minister
who was an important go-between in potential peace talks, was shot
and killed Sunday as he headed to a government meeting on
reconciliation, Afghan officials said.
Mr. Rahmani, who lived openly in Kabul under close protection from
the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of
Security, was killed in his car by a gunman who then escaped, said a
fellow member of the High Peace Council, Muallawi Shafiullah
“His assassination is a big loss,” Mr. Shafiullah said. “It will
affect the peace process because he played an important role in
mediating the peace talks and was a trusted person among the
Taliban.” Mr. Rahmani had been the minister of higher education
during Taliban rule and was known as a relative moderate.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, reached by telephone,
said they were not responsible for the killing. Although Mr. Rahmani
often acted as an informal spokesman for the Taliban during peace
talks, the insurgents had disavowed him as an interlocutor. The
Taliban had threatened to kill members of the High Peace Council as
part of their spring offensive, according to local news reports.
In September, a Taliban emissary to the High Peace Council hid a bomb
in his turban and assassinated the leader of the council, Burhanuddin
Rabbani, a former Afghan president.
“It is true that at the beginning of our spring operation we
announced that among many other entities and individuals we will
target members of the so-called High Peace Council,” Mr. Mujahid
said, “and we are still committed to our campaign against the so-
called members of the so-called High Peace Council, but again I
insist that the Taliban were not behind today’s assassination.”
Wahid Mojdah, a former Taliban official who is a political analyst in
Kabul, said he thought it was unlikely that the Taliban had killed
Mr. Rahmani. “He had never done anything to make the Taliban angry,”
“He was playing an important role in convincing the Taliban and the
Haqqanis to moderate their stance on schools and education,” Mr.
Mojdah added, referring to the Haqqani faction of the Taliban. “The
fact that he was shot dead in front of his house while he was
surrounded by his bodyguards raises a lot of questions.”
Mr. Rahmani was attacked just after he left his heavily guarded home
in western Kabul to attend the inaugural meeting of a new government
body, said an Afghan police official who spoke on the condition of
anonymity because the death was still being investigated. It was
unclear if anyone else had been killed in the attack.
The meeting of the new government body, the High Council of the
Independent Commission for Dispute Resolution and People-to-
Government Relations, had been announced Saturday; after the attack,
it was canceled.
Efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban have faltered in recent
months as the Taliban disavowed them, and a smaller insurgent group,
Hezb-i-Islami, which had already been in discussions with the Afghan
government, announced that it was pulling out as well.
There had been plans for the Taliban to open a political office in
Qatar and for the United States to release Taliban prisoners from
detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to the custody of the government
of Qatar. The release of an American, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held by the
Taliban was also under discussion.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the
Select Committee on Intelligence, said Pakistan was crucial to
defeating the Taliban and expressed frustration that Pakistan had
failed to deprive the insurgents of a haven in the rugged mountains
along its Afghan border.
“Militarily, I think that the Taliban are not going to beat us,” said
Ms. Feinstein, a Democrat from California. But the Taliban “have a
safe harbor in Pakistan, and the Pakistanis are doing nothing to
abate that safe harbor.”
Also on Sunday, the Afghan government announced the beginning of the
third phase of the transfer of security authority from international
to Afghan forces, a process scheduled to be complete by 2014.
At a news conference, Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for President Hamid
Karzai, said this stage would place 75 percent of Afghanistan’s
population under the protection of the country’s police and military
forces. The transition will now include parts of all 34 provinces, a
statement from Mr. Karzai said.
The announcement came a week before a NATO summit meeting in Chicago
intended to determine the allies’ future commitments in Afghanistan.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force also announced
that an improvised bomb killed two service members in eastern
Afghanistan on Sunday. No details were available. Habib Zahori and
Graham Bowley contributed reporting. (Copyright 2012 The New York
Times Company 05/14/12)
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