Afghan assasination dashes peace hopes

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The assassination of a former Afghan president reflects the dangers of negotiations with the Taliban: Any effort toward a peace deal can bring deadly action to stop it from factions within the multi-headed insurgency.

Now supporters of the slain Burhanuddin Rabbani angrily warned on Wednesday there is no hope in seeking negotiations, a key policy of President Hamid Karzai the United States has backed. Afghans involved in peace efforts are fearful of reaching out to anyone within the Taliban and risk being targeted themselves.

Many fear such assassinations could accelerate as the Taliban and other insurgents try to bolster their positions ahead of a planned withdrawal of U.S. and other international combat forces at the end of 2014.

“How are we supposed to negotiate with these wild devils?” said the governor of northern Balkh province, Atta Mohammad Noor. “We need peace, but peace with who? We want peace with people who know the value of peace.”

“The Taliban are not sympathetic. They are killing our people. They killed our leader — Rabbani. We don’t want to waste time with these types of people,” he told the Associated Press.

The 70-year-old Rabbani was the leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, which helped overthrow Taliban rule in the country. He headed the country’s High Peace Council, set up by Karzai to work toward a political solution to the decade-long war. It has made little headway since it was formed a year ago, but it is backed by many in the international community as helping move toward a settlement.

Rabbani was killed in his Kabul home Tuesday evening by a suicide attacker with a bomb in his turban, who gained entry by convincing officials including Karzai’s advisers he was a Taliban leader wanting to reconcile.

The U.S.-led coalition said another attacker was also involved, but that could not be confirmed by Afghan officials. The Interior Ministry said one person had been detained in connection with Rabbani’s death — the driver of the car who took the bomber to Rabbani’s house. Noor said the driver was found with incriminating documents, but did not reveal further details.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, police chief in Kabul, said the Taliban were behind it.

When contacted by the AP, Taliban spokesmen declined to discuss the killing and spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said they were still investigating it, which leaves the prospects for talks in limbo.

The all but crushed prospects for reconciliation with the Taliban leaves the U.S. and its international partners few choices in their effort bring stability to the country. The U.S.-led coalition has spent tens of billions of dollars to try and train more than 300,000 Afghan army and police forces so they can gradually take charge of security as the foreign forces withdraw.

But President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw 33,000 of the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops here by the end of next summer has put the transition process in overdrive.

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