("Los talibanes asestan un golpe devastador a la
Taliban explain Ahmad
M K Bhadrakumar
The Taliban have
issued a statement offering an explanation for the assassination in the southern
Afghan city of Kandahar of Ahmad Wali Karzai, the younger half-brother of
President Hamid Karzai.
This statement was released on Thursday - the
same day a suicide bomber disrupted the memorial service in Kandahar for Ahmad
Wali, killing three people, including Maulawi Ekmatullah, the head of the local
ulema shura (provincial religious council).
Earlier, the burial
of Ahmad Wali on Tuesday, attended by President Karzai, passed off without
incident. But the Taliban targeted the memorial service, which was held for
those who were had traveled from remote places and couldn't attend the
Direct references in the Taliban statement to the Afghan
president were conspicuous in their absence. The focus was almost entirely on
Ahmad Wali, since the Taliban wanted the Afghan elites to draw the necessary
conclusions as to why the 49-year-old head of Kandahar's elected provincial
council had to be eliminated.
The Taliban squarely and unambiguously
blamed the assassination on the fact that Ahmad Wali worked for the United
States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Interestingly, the whole world is
focusing on Ahmad Wali as an archetypal Afghan "warlord" and fascinating yarns
are being churned out by the hour on the amorphous phenomenon of Afghan
"warlordism"; but the Taliban zero in on the kernel of the truth. Nothing else
about Ahmad Wali matters to them.
Indeed, the Taliban expose that Ahmad
Wali was a "kingpin of the regime in south Afghanistan" in his capacity as the
leader of the provincial council. He was the "most trusted person" of the US-led
coalition forces occupying Afghanistan.
The Taliban point out that Ahmad
Wali cooperated with the "Americans, Canadians and Britons" in the latters'
campaign to gain control of the southwestern region of Afghanistan - not only
Kandahar. (The governor of Helmand province, Gulab Mangal, was targeted in
Maiwand district with an improvised explosive device as he was travelling to
Kandahar on Tuesday to attend Ahmad Wali's funeral.)
obviously crossed the "red line" in helping US commander General David Petraeus'
troop surge. The Taliban said he "played a key role in spreading the net of
intelligence of the Western invaders and boosting their sway in southwest
But the clincher was that this wasn't retribution for past
sins. "Even now, he [Ahmad Wali] received a high salary from the CIA." This is
as close as the Taliban get to suggesting that they apprehended that with
Petraeus' elevation as the head of the CIA, Ahmad Wali would have an even
greater potential to inflict damage on their interests. What emerges is that
Ahmad Wali has paid with his life the political cost of the measure of success
that Petraeus can claim for his "surge" policy in southwestern Afghanistan.
Quite obviously, by removing the "kingpin", the Taliban intend to
nullify the gains of the "surge" and also pre-empt any further moves by
Petraeus, who has gone on record that he would expect the locus of the military
operations to now shift to the eastern region, where the US would rely more on
intelligence and would count less on boots on the ground.
statement squarely identifies Ahmad Wali with the excesses of the military
operations in the southwestern region. It details the kind of atrocities that
Western forces perpetrated, and then adds, "No doubt, in all these crimes, Ahmad
Wali Karzai was complicit as the first person responsible for the [Kandahar]
province ... Now, he has received his punishment."
although President Karzai invariably insists that the buck stops with him as
regards the US's war crimes, the Taliban say otherwise. Their statement then
steps back and begins to reflect on the political message for the Afghan elites
- "Those Afghans who cooperate with the invading forces in contravention of
their religion, country and native [traditional] values should take a lesson ...
They should reconsider their behavior and actions." For, the Afghan nation
cannot "tolerate" their cooperation with the foreign occupation forces or their
acquiescence to the occupation itself.
The statement gives a chilling
warning to those who collaborate, warning them that they cannot hope to take
refuge in high-security zones under Western military protection - behind "barbed
wires, cemented walls, sand bags" - as the long arm of the Taliban can reach
The Taliban, however, say they are prepared to show latitude
to those who may have collaborated with the US up until now - provided they
"rethink, and abandon their subservience to the non-believing invaders". That is
to say, "influential, educated and experienced Afghans" still have a choice even
if they don't want to join the ranks of the Taliban or work with the Taliban
insofar as they can "at least leave the path of support of the non-believers and
start an ordinary life".
On the contrary, if they persist with their
"submissive work", then, "you'll meet the same fate like General Daoud and Ahmad
Wali Karzai". (The police chief for northern Afghanistan and the commander of
the 303 Pamir Corps, Mohammed Daud, was killed by a suicide bomber in Takhar on
The underlying thought process in the Taliban statement needs
to be noted. This is an outright political statement and not a dogmatic
al-Qaeda-like "jihadi" diatribe against the "decadent" West. Its focus is
unmistakably on the Taliban's resolve not to compromise under any circumstances
on the central question of the Western military presence on Afghan soil.
In sum, Ahmad Wali has been killed for being the CIA's point person in
Afghanistan. Equally, the comparison with Daud is striking. Daud was a prominent
"Panjshiri" who worked closely with North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in
the northern region. He was also a kingpin, so to speak, for the German forces
stationed in the Amu Darya region.
Conceivably, the Taliban underline by
this comparison that the killing of Daud had nothing to do with him being a key
non-Pashtun figure connected with the late Ahmad Shah Massoud or the erstwhile
Northern Alliance's anti-Taliban resistance in the late 1990s.
also an implicit warning here for President Karzai and his team that it would be
a fatal mistake if they succumbed to US pressure to allow the establishment of
permanent military bases in Afghanistan on the pattern of what Washington is
attempting to do in Iraq.
The Taliban statement makes it clear that the
Quetta shura (the Taliban's high council) could have overlooked just
about any aberration in Ahmad Wali's political profile - such as his strong-arm
methods as a "warlord" or even his alleged involvement in drug trafficking or
embezzlement of funds from the central bank - but what they could not afford to
tolerate was that he continued to be the CIA's collaborator.
Ahmad Wali's killing constitutes a devastating challenge to Petraeus personally.
It comes on the eve of his departure from the war zone and it virtually
unscrambles the omelette that the plucky US commander made at the fag-end of his
military career. The "surge" has now become all but just another inconsequential
page in the history of the Afghan war rather than the turning point it was meant
More importantly, as the head of the CIA, Petraeus now has to
confront the challenge of working in the southern Afghanistan region in an
"intelligence vacuum". Ahmad Wali was a hands-on operative who didn't leave
behind a replacement so to speak. He is irreplaceable, in fact. He had a finger
in every pie cooking in the Kandahar region, ranging from providing security for
the coalition forces to the US's nascent contacts with the Taliban.
in all, the most striking aspect of the Taliban statement is that it deftly
sidesteps President Karzai. He is not bracketed with Ahmad Wali's "crimes".
The fact that the Taliban made no attempt to disrupt the funeral on
Tuesday is significant. The Taliban waited for full two days after the funeral
was over to come out with the statement. After all, they took the life of a
chief of the Popolzai tribe.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the
Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea,
Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and