A former Taliban official who had been working to draw resistance forces into talks with the Nato-backed Karzai government was shot dead today.
A gunman with a silenced pistol killed Arsala Rahmani as he was riding in his car in one of the capital’s most secure areas near Kabul University.
Mr Rahmani was a top member of the Afghan peace council and a senator in parliament’s upper house. The former Taliban official was active in trying to set up formal talks with resistance forces.
His assassination follows that of the council’s head last year.
The Taliban has refused to have direct contact with the council, which it considers an organ of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government.
The Islamist movement has said publicly that it will not negotiate with Mr Karzai or his administration, calling it a puppet of the United States.
“Talking with the Kabul administration is pointless,” it said in a recent statement.
Mr Rahmani was shot just hours before Mr Karzai announced the third part of a five-stage transition process that is expected to leave Afghan security forces in control of the country by the end of 2014, when most foreign troops are scheduled to go home.
Afghan security forces now number about 330,000 and Nato expects that figure to increase to 352,000 by the end of the year.
The Western military alliance is hoping that Afghan forces will take over counterinsurgency operations in the impoverished, underdeveloped country by the end of September, when the number of US soldiers is set to drop to 68,000.
Nato acknowledges that the transition won’t succeed without some kind of deal with the Taliban.
US President Barack Obama recently cited political reconciliation as one of the pillars of his strategy to “complete our mission and end the war.”
The US has its own contacts with the Taliban — but the militant organisation suspended those in March over Washington’s “shaky, erratic and vague” position on key issues.
It identified US efforts to involve representatives of the Karzai administration in talks as a key stumbling block and condemned a lack of progress in releasing prisoners from US detention in Guantanamo.
The last substantive discussions between US officials and Taliban representatives took place in January.
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