Assassination of Influential Figures


Afghan lawmaker Ahmad Khan Samangani speaks in parliament in Kabul in this undated handout photo. A suicide bomber blew himself up at a wedding reception in Samangan province in northern Afghanistan on July 14, 2012, killing at least 22 people including Samangani, and wounding 40 others, police said.

Article Highlights

  • Recent killings are feared to undermine security in the relatively peaceful north.

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  • Recent assassinations increase resentment among Northern Aliance leaders worried about political deals with the Taliban.

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  • The effort to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table has largely failed and caused deep divisions inside Afghanistan.

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Editor's Note: FMSO’s Operational Environment Watch provides translated selections and analysis from a diverse range of foreign articles and other media that analysts and expert contributors believe will give military and security experts an added dimension to their critical thinking about the Operational Environment.

Source: “Nokta hai penhaan roydad-s Samangan” (“Hidden Points of Samangan Incident,”) Mandagar Daily, July 16, 2012.

Majidyar: On 14 July a suicide bomber struck a wedding ceremony in the northern Afghan province of Samangan, killing influential anti-Taliban politician Ahmad Khan Samangani and 22 others, including the provincial intelligence chief and two senior army and police officers. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, but Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi said initial evidence suggested the insurgent group was behind it. Local officials also alleged that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which operates in alliance with the Haqqani Network, carried out the killings. Announcing its spring offensive in May, the Taliban had warned that it would target government officials and anyone cooperating with the foreign troops.

Samangani was a prominent mujahideen commander who fought against the Soviets in the 1980s and against the Taliban in the late 1990s. He won a seat in parliament in 2010, and had thousands of armed men under his command in northern Afghanistan.

His slaying was the latest in a series of high-profile assassinations by the Taliban in the past two years, especially influential leaders of the Northern Alliance such as Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of Jamiat-e Islami and head of the High Peace Council, and General Daud Daud, the police chief of northern provinces. On 15 July Higher Education Minister Obaidullah Obaid survived an assassination attempt while traveling to northern Kunduz Province.

The recent killings are feared to undermine security in the relatively peaceful north and jeopardize the smooth transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan lead in the region. They may also further strain ties between minority leaders and Karzai. The excerpted article in the Mandegar Daily criticizes the government for freeing Taliban commanders from jail and not doing enough to prevent such attacks. It also alleges that certain elements within the government could be involved in the assassination campaign of northern leaders.

Moreover, the recent assassinations could increase resentment and anxiety among Northern Alliance leaders who are worried about political deals with the Taliban. Leaders in the north fear that a backstage deal between Karzai and the Taliban could undo gains of the past decade and repeat the horrors of the 1990s. A similar article in the Jawedan Daily quotes Ahmad Zia Massoud, leader of opposition alliance Jabha-e Melli (National Front), as warning that Karzai is trying to forge a coalition with some factions of the Taliban and Hizb-e Islami to contest the 2014 presidential elections.  On 14 July former Afghan spy chief and key opposition figure Amrullah Saleh warned in an interview with local Tolo TV that his followers would turn against the government if a secret power-sharing deal was made with the insurgents.

While the effort to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table has largely failed, it has created deep divisions inside Afghanistan. Many commanders in north and central Afghanistan have begun rearming their militias as Kabul and Washington have intensified efforts to reach a settlement with the Taliban to end the war. The recent killings may only accelerate their rearming drive, which could spark a civil war once foreign troops depart the country in 2014.

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About the Author


Ahmad K.
  • Ahmad K. Majidyar studies political and security affairs in South Asia and the Middle East, with a special focus on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. He also travels frequently to military bases across the United States to instruct senior U.S. Army and Marine officers about culture, religion, and domestic politics in Afghanistan, and about terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Before joining AEI in 2008, Mr. Majidyar worked as a media analyst with BBC Monitoring in Kabul, and served as an aid worker with the United Nations agency for refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan. He is fluent in Dari (Persian), Pashto, and Urdu.

    Follow Ahmad Majidyar on Twitter.
  • Phone: 202-862-5845

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