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High Peace Council: former Taliban Arsala Rahmani killed

May 13, 2012

By Tim Foxley

A member of the Afghan High Peace Council, Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, was shot dead today by a single bullet from a passing car while on his way to work in Kabul.  Rahmani was a former Taliban Minister during the 1990s (for Higher Education).  The High Peace Council (HPC) was established two years ago and charged by President Karzai with conducting negotiations with the Taliban.  The HPC’s first leader, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated by an insurgent group – most likely Taliban or Taliban-associated – in September 2011.

My immediate thoughts:

  1. A “high media value” attack likely to generate more “is Afghanistan worth it?” debate in Western media circles.
  2.  Rahmani’s assassination (of which details are still limited) has not yet been claimed by anyone.  It is likely to be a Taliban/Taliban-affiliated group (the Haqqani network are usually mentioned in the context of effective attacks into Kabul).
  3. The Taliban specifically mentioned members of the High Peace Council as legitimate targets in the announcement of their Spring “Al-Farooq” operations and are believed to be keen to target former Taliban who have sided with the government (also including fighters involved in the reintegration process).
  4. When Rabbani was assassinated, the Taliban’s usually efficient media machine got tangled up in whether to claim the attack or not (it was a significant anti-peace statement and Rabbani was a very senior and symbolic political and military figure).  The Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid has, according to Twitter, denied the attack on Rahmani, claiming it to be the “work of others”.  Theory: as with Rabbani killing, Haqqani does the dirty work allowing the Taliban leadership a fig leaf of distance??
  5. It would be another setback overall to the ideas of peace talks (do the Taliban currently have much incentive?), although:
  • there is still little tangible behind talks as a whole (and the Taliban have officially “suspended” talks)
  • the US appear to be driving whatever efforts there are, and
  • the High Peace Council has been singularly unimpressive in achieving anything.
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