Analysis: Afghan assassination means Taliban 'want war, not peace'
September 20th, 2011
04:35 PM ET

Analysis: Afghan assassination means Taliban 'want war, not peace'

[cross-posted from CNN's Security Clearance blog]

By Tim Lister and Jennifer Rizzo, CNN

The assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul – apparently by the very group he was trying to negotiate with – suggests a political solution in Afghanistan remains a distant prospect – and is another reminder of how fragile security is in the Afghan capital, according to analysts and diplomats.

Rabbani was also one of the most prominent Tajiks in Afghanistan, and his killing is likely to aggravate their fears of renewed ethnic conflict with the largely Pashtun Taliban.

It’s not clear whether the Taliban leadership sanctioned the assassination, but that was the immediate assumption of the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who said it represented “the strategy of the Taliban to assassinate as many leaders as possible.”

Those words were echoed by Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, who said that “regardless of what Taliban leadership outside the country say, they do not want peace, but rather war.”

Long an enemy of the Taliban, Rabbani was a controversial choice when appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as chairman of the High Peace Council a year ago. A former president of Afghanistan himself, he was forced to flee Kabul when the Taliban took over in 1996, but continued to lead resistance to the regime from his stronghold in Faisabad in northern Afghanistan.

“Politics in Afghanistan tend to be ethnic based,” says Paraag Shukla, an expert on Afghan governance at the Institute for the Study of War. “Rabbani has been a leading figure in the Tajik minority. He was a surprising choice when he was chosen to be a head of this peace council because the Taliban has opposed him in the past because they are Pashtun.”

Even Rabbani himself had expressed distrust of Karzai’s peace overtures to the Taliban. He was quoted in a U.S. diplomatic cable in 2008 as saying many “non-Pashtuns suspect Karzai is pursuing a strategy that sets Pashtuns against the country’s other ethnicities.” He also acknowledged that he had tried to persuade Karzai not to run for re-election.

But Bruce Riedel, Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., says Karzai appointed Rabbani because he had weight and experience and could reassure minorities.

“He was the type of figure if a real negotiation process moved forward, people would say we trust Rabbani – and I think that is why Karzai chose him.”

Even so, it appears Rabbani’s role in the peace process was not very popular in Islamabad. Last month, in an interview with CNN affiliate GEO News, he chided Pakistan for not investing more in the Afghan peace process.

"We feel in Afghanistan that Pakistan still supports the Taliban and several Taliban leaders are living in Pakistan, and Pakistan can encourage them to come to the negotiating table," Rabbani said. “Allowing the Afghan opposition to live in the country is against the spirit of bilateral friendship,” he said.

Rabbani also made it clear he was intent on attracting moderate Taliban to the peace process. "Some others oppose, and can harm, the peace process," he said. That echoes what he told the U.S. ambassador in Kabul at the end of 2008, according to a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, when he urged the incoming Obama administration to “require those seeking to reconcile to break off relations with al Qaeda and Pakistan-based sources of support."

Little surprise then that at least among Taliban hardliners he remained the enemy rather than the peacemaker.

How any peace process will be affected by his death is as yet unclear.

“It’s a very serious setback for anyone that was hoping for a peace process," says Riedel of Brookings. "There has always been a huge debate about whether the Taliban was interested in reconciliation, I think we got the answer [today].”

Riedel says the Peace Council had trouble finding anyone to negotiate with. “It has been trying to see if it can find a Taliban that wants to talk to it and there’s been a lot of talks about talks but there hasn’t been much real practical negotiations. We have now seen that there are very powerful forces that don’t want that reconciliation process to go forward.”

Shukla agrees. The High Council “hadn’t really made significant process in the past year. It was a move seen as partly symbolic,” he says. “But it was important in that the government needed an official council that was representative of different minority groups and could be a unified message to insurgents from the government.”

Those minorities are already nervous about being marginalized. “Putting a respected and experienced political figure who was a minority into that position was in part to assuage the fears of a lot of minorities,” Shukla says. Now that figure is gone.

“It will be very hard to find a figure of comparable character that reassures Tajiks and Uzbeks that reconciliation is not a sell-out of their interests,” says Riedel.


Filed under: Peace talks • Taliban
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. RottenWorld

    Al Qaeida has the blessings of Lord Ganesha, the barbaric God who helps to annihilate the poor so that He can remove the obstacles for the rich. Lord Ganesha enjoys killing the poor while helping the rich to get richer. If you are rich, Lord Ganesha is your servant, aide, assistant and what not.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hstryrpeats

    Obviously the writers of this piece have never lived in Afghanistan for 15 years. When you say "Taliban", you are not talking about a foreign person who is running amok there. A member of the Taliban can be a friend, family member, respected person of another clan, etc. Someone you may have known all your life. It's like living in the USA and everyone LOVES football. You either support the NFC or AFC. You can even change which league you belong too. There is no way to get rid of the Taliban because they are always around and evolving. It would be like trying to get rid of football here in the USA. People would still sneak out and play or watch local games. There will always be Taliban in Afghanistan, they will just be called something else or be in thde opposing league.

    October 4, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pamiri

    The action of killing Rabani is done by ISI and Karzai -Stankzai

    September 27, 2011 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      Wrong, pamiri. The assassination of this Rabbani was far more likely done by the C.I.A. or the notorious British MI-6 rather than the Taliban since the right-wing thugs in Washington along with their British henchmen are fully adamant on dominating Central Asia! This is most probably a repeat performance of the 1933 burning of the German Reichstag in Berlin by the Nazis just to have it blamed on the German Communists!!!

      September 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • USMC Forever

        Man George, you are an absolute Genius, Boy. Just keep taking them drugs and please don't reproduce smart guy!!!!

        October 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Monty Gaither

    Of course they want war. They believe killing non-believers, which include Muslims that believe differently than they do, is doing their mythical gods will. The more they kill the happier they are. The same can be said of the Al Qaeda.

    That does not mean that all Muslims believe that. But these two groups have proven that they do believe this.

    We can keep troops there for a century and the killings will continue and when we finally leave the Taliban most likely will take over again. If not a group very much like them.

    September 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Leigh

    What a surprise! The wretched tiny "t's" don't want peace! How many over paid analysts did it take to come to this unexpected conclusion?

    September 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lord Ganesha

    still in a rut.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lord Ganesha

    Truth will prevail in spite of pointless insults and name calling.
    Those things are only perverted manifestations of Lord Shiva.

    September 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lord Ganesha

      your point?

      September 21, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 000

    our pet troll yakobe is also posting under the name Halakat on other bog threads. he will (automatically) deny it but it's true.

    September 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • 000

      notice he did NOT deny his alter ego or "nom de plume."

      September 21, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. koyal

    OKEY, to kill someone is not the solution of any problem. Please put your mind in favour of humanity instead killing.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. pamiri

    برهان الدین ربانی ترور شد
    سه شنبه ۲۹ شهریور ۱۳۹۰ ساعت ۱۶:۰۴

    به گزارش جاودان از کابل، برهان الدین ربانی، رئیس شورای عالی صلح، در اثر یک حملۀ انتحارى هنگام شام امروز در منطقه وزير اکبرخان کابل کشته شد.
    بر اساس گزارشها، استاد ربانى، معصوم ستانکزی (رئیس دارالانشا شورای صلح) و چند عضوى دیگر شوراى عالى صلح با دو عضوى ارشد طالبان پيرامون صلح گفتگو ميکرند، که اين رويداد ُرخ داد.
    به نقل از روزنامه ی ماندگار، ساعاتی پس از این رویداد مارشال محمد قسیم فهیم معاون اول رییس جمهور در یک کنفرانس خبری گفت که شهادت استاد ربانی در یک توطیه‌ی بزرگ و مرموز صورت گرفته است. او از فرد انتحاری به نام نصرالله یاد کرد.
    به گفته‌ی یک منبع دیگر، ساعاتی پیش از حمله به جان استاد ربانی، حامد کرزی با او تماس تلیفونی داشته و به او گفته است که با این دو فرمانده طالبان دیدار کند.
    استاد ربانی که قرار بود به دوبی مسافرت کند، به همین دلیل آنرا به تعویق انداخت. گفتنی است که استاد ربانی روز گذشته در ایران حضور داشته و شماری از اعضای شورای عالی صلح با تماس‌های پی‌هم از او خواسته اند که به کابل بیاید و ملاقات مهمی در مورد صلح با اعضای ارشد گروه طالبان دارد.
    برخی آگاهان گفته اند که ملا واحد یار یک عضو پیشین گروه طالبان که عضو شورای عالی صلح نیز می‌باشد، از هماهنگ‌کنندگان این ملاقات بوده که در این حادثه زخمی شده است.
    قابل ذکر است که معصوم استانکزی هنگام وارد کردن افراد انتحاری، خودش در داخل اتاق استاد وارد نشده و در دهلیز ساختمان مسکونی استاد ربانی، حضور داشته است.
    گفتنى است که اين حمله از سوى افراد متذکرۀ طالبان صورت گرفته، که مواد منفجره را در دستار خود جاسازى نموده بود.
    استاد برهان الدين ربانى رهبر جمعيت اسلامى، رئيس جمهوری اسبق افغانستان، عضوى دور گذشتۀ ولسى جرگه و اکنون رئيس شوراى عالى صلح بود.
    وب سایت "جاودان" کشته شدن استاد برهان الدین ربانی را شدیدآ محکوم کرده، آنرا یک ضایعه بزرگ برای ملت افغانستان می پندارد

    Above article shows , before the attack on Rabai Saheb , Karzai called to Rabanni and said to him that you meet Taliban, then according him he was meeting this Taliban, and when Talib was entering into Rabani house, Mahsom Stankzai memebr of peace council said to the gaurd was responsible to search the guest that whoever is coming with do not check them then gaurd did not check him and so , while a later this event happened, based on all these indicate that what ISI is saying Karzai is implementing, neither Karzai and nor Pakistan are the ally of international forces to fight against terrorists, Karzai is supporting Terrrorists

    from Kabul

    September 21, 2011 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
    • 000

      the bomber claimed to be a Taliban member who had come for the talks about peace and reconciliation, and detonated the explosives as he entered the home.

      September 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
      • 000

        you are tiresomely wrong again and again. merely a hateful troll making ugly inflammatory anti American rants. your bias and agenda fool no one. you rot.

        September 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
      • 000

        as you are well aware my prior post is from the same chain where you call yourself halakat. YOU are the "hindu" stupid bigot here. (With apologies to Hindu persons from India or any other non islamic persuasion or place.)

        September 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JAMAL

    STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT AMERICA HAS DONE MORE THAN ENOUGH TO BRING PEACE TO THE AFGAN PEOPLE BUT APPEARS ALL ITS EFFORTS ARE BECOMING FRUITLESS. ALL WE CAN SAY IS IT IS NOW A HIGH TIME TO LEAVE THE AFGANS AND PULL ALL AMERICANS FROM THIS HOPELESS COUNTRY. IF THE AFGANS CAN'T APPRECIATE THE ASSISTANCE OF OTHERS, LEAVE THEM TO FINALIZE THEIR PROBLEMS. IT IS PERHAPS IDEAL THE AFGANS WILL GET RID OF TALIBAN ULTIMATELY. THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAS DONE ENOUGH IT IS NOW HIGH TIME LEAVE THEM BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

    September 21, 2011 at 4:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. Christianna

    Americans, it was deadly wrong for you when you did not provide Afghans the Bibles they needed. Average, common Afghans must be made want to break free from the evil and tyranny of all sorts. But unless one understands the human dignity from the Bible, he can never fight against the human evil. Give Afghans literacy and Bibles. This is no time to consider other things. America, you are the last hope Afghanistan has in order to stand. Don't forsake them. Their wellness is your wellness and the world's. God's Truth alone gives true strength, intelligence and courage to any humanity just as it did to your Founding Fathers.

    September 21, 2011 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      The very last thing Afghans need is more stupid religion. It was very wise of America NOT to start pushing their own branch of Middle Eastern religion on those people. They need real education and to escape from retrograde religions once and for all. Christianity is no solution – it's only another divisive delusion.

      September 21, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. D.A.N.

    No these people DO NOT want peace, they want control again to enforce their religious beliefs on the people. They kill people who work for peace because they think their doing God a favor by killing anybody who DOES NOT FOLLOW strict Islamic laws. The religious fact is that God has sacrificed His only son for everyone's sins and the only way to please Him is to come to this acknowledgement and become more Christlike with love, compassion and forgiveness for all people! GOD DOES NOT REJOICE IN THE DEATH OF A SINNER! HE ONLY REJOICES WHEN PEOPLE COME TO KNOW HIS SON AND TURN AWAY FROM SIN! NEVER WHEN ONE COMMITS SIN AS THESE SUICIDE BOMBERS, TALIBAN AND THEIR TERRORIST ALLIES DO!

    September 20, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zeal

      Maybe, your first 2 lines. But the United States can do better, if their goal is to wipe out the Taliban. If they wanted to, they would simply target the Taliban's source of income and recruitment, and shift into other areas more obscure than Afghan regions. If you look at the number of active Taliban soldiers, simply fighting where we are in Afghanistan will not do much. I have a feeling they are everywhere, and large portions may be blended in with the communities. It is hard to wipe out a group that acts like this, and as of now, we should either make fighting more efficient, or quit as we do it now.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • D.A.N.

        Their goal is not to wipe out the Taliban, but to make Afghanistan a nation that does not harbor terrorism and to build up Afghan's security forces so they can do the job themselves. I do believe though that Islam is facing a crucial time in their history. If they truly are so religious they need to reform themselves into a peaceful, God fearing religion and stop thinking that they are the only true followers of God. They believe they are doing God's work in killing the infidel and who they call traitors who work for peace, freedom and democracy and in all actuality they are only doing the devil's work!

        September 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
      • nugha

        Islam (asylum, aslum) is a maddening religion (not theen/din) as it causes people to become insand/mad. Even phopet (false illuminator) mahhamad, or should I say (moaha / maha) (MAD) (maha-mad mlekka darm, judaistic, norse prediction). Evil predicted by many, used as a political strategy and a war waging one as well, powerful enough to unite soldiers under the cause to fight and expand. And so it did, with it's persuasiveness, making sense to those who argued in pre-islamic arabia/middle east. It was monotheistic, related to Judaism in terms of necessities and rules/ and even a bit of residual stuff from it's Yemenite / African origins. Maddening enough to drive someone to post incessantly about ignorance among other things, and to totally consume someone. Also barbaric like their human origins, which many refuse when med. has a lot of similar concepts today. Allah, I-shalim, all these words recycled from languages originating in Africa, relating to Canaan religions. Nothing suits a musala-man more than argument and warfare.

        September 21, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
      • Lord Ganesha

        an abusive insult is not a useful reply.

        September 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
      • nugha

        Oh sure evolution daddy monkey this and that. But look at origins of Pathans genetically, same theories which prove one human humanity lineage as you probably love to follow in opposition to equal different claims. Where genetically do you think Pakis and Afghanis originated from. Thin air? They are related. You and your stupid a.s.s backfire about hypothesis when you won't shut the heck up about your own stuff on everyone's post. I won't lie. maha mada's Koran is very convincing, persuasive, maintained pre islam methods and rules, similar yemenite beliefs and language (or should I say latin, in a very dragged out voice), monotheistic, uniting those judai-parsi-oldiranireligion fighters. Also politically very powerful, as demonstrated in your case. Come on. 'me with somein new. also I won't lie when I think that some of what you said politically is true. Please don't twist my use of the word political because of in context you can figure out what I mean.

        September 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |