Top Afghan commander’s killing raises questions

TEHRAN, Oct. 21 (MNA) – The formidable, flamboyant, maverick police chief of southern Afghan province of Kandahar General Abdul Raziq Achakzai was gunned down in a shootout inside the provincial governor’s office on Thursday, along with the governor and intelligence chief.

The ‘insider attack’, which wiped out the provincial leadership, was carried out by the governor’s bodyguard and claimed by the Taliban, which shows Taliban infiltration of police and army in the war-ravaged country.

Gen. Raziq, 39, a bulwark against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan had a larger-than-life persona. To his credit, he had almost wiped off the terrorist group from its traditional stronghold – Kandahar, and was always seen in the thick of things. As the Taliban mounted gruesome attacks to seize other parts of the country, Gen. Raziq’s presence in Kandahar ensured peace and stability there.  

A fierce commander, who was seen as an American ally, was often accused by human rights watchdogs like Human Rights Watch of ‘torture, extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses’. But, his presence was so powerful and domineering in a country where US war has stretched into its 18th year that the government struggled to sideline or ignore him.

The social media was inundated with poignant posts on Thursday, with netizens terming his death an “irreparable loss”, which could have “far-reaching consequences” for peace and security in southern Afghanistan, where he was a “pillar of stability”. Many of them blamed Pakistan while many blamed the US for his violent end. 

On Friday afternoon, the fallen commander was given a tearful adieu in Kandahar city by the border police he commanded for years. The bustling city was remarkably quiet as his coffin was paraded to the burial ground. The invincible man had met his inevitable death. 
The enormity of the tragedy can be gauged from the fact that the Afghan government decided to delay the parliamentary elections that were scheduled for October 20. 

Not the one to mince his words, Gen. Raziq was fiercely critical of Pakistan for providing sanctuary to the militant groups attacking Afghanistan. Over the years, he had survived many bids on his life, including a deadly suicide bombing last year. In an interview once, he said he had lost the count of times when the Taliban tried to exterminate him. A brave young commander and a smart war strategist, he always prevailed because he always had an upper hand and better luck.

However, on Thursday, his luck ran out. The incident took place following a meeting between Afghan and American officials at Kandahar governor’s compound in the afternoon. In a statement, Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was aimed at Gen. Raziq and Gen. Austin Miller, the newly-appointed top US commander in Afghanistan. Miller escaped unhurt.

News reports, quoting eyewitnesses, said the shooting took place when Gen. Raziq was escorting the US officials, including Miller, to their helicopters. How Miller survived the attack, which killed Gen. Raziq, governor Zalmai Wesa and intelligence chief Gen. Abdul Momim, is a great mystery. If the attack was indeed aimed at Gen. Raziq and Miller, then how did latter escape unhurt. Did the Taliban actually not want to kill the top US official in Afghanistan? 

There are many questions that may never be answered. Many believe Gen. Raziq, who was not in favor of peace talks with the Taliban, had become a stumbling block in the US-led so-called ‘peace efforts’. Notably, the US and Taliban officials had recently held secret parleys in Doha, in which the US delegation had even proposed a political role for the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan, thereby giving legitimacy to the group they have been claiming to fight for the past 17 years.

Although Gen. Raziq was seen as a staunch US ally in southern Afghanistan, many observers believe he had become a liability because of his dogged opposition to peace talks with the Taliban. For Americans, there can be no permanent friends or foes, and we have examples of Saddam Hussain and Muammar Gaddafi before us. This could well have been an attack orchestrated and executed jointly by the US and Taliban to get rid of the formidable anti-Taliban commander. 

In a statement, the US military said the target of the Thursday attack was Gen. Raziq, not Miller. It is interesting how sure they can be that the attack was not aimed at Miller. As eyewitnesses said, Gen. Raziq was walking alongside Miller and other US officials when the assailant opened fire. Gen. Raziq received four bullets – two in legs, one in abdomen and one in chest. The top US commander safely walked to his helicopter and left the spot. 

If the Taliban insurgency is all about the US war crimes in Afghanistan and if all they want is the withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country, it defies logic why the Taliban fighter masquerading as an Afghan policeman would open fire at Afghan officials and not the US official. There is definitely more to it than meets the eye. The attack proves yet again the duplicitous policies of the US in Afghanistan and its covert support to groups that seek to destabilize the country. 

The ‘peace talks’ between the US and Taliban officials is hogwash. Otherwise how does it make sense that the ‘peace talks’ would be followed by deadly suicide bombings and targeted attacks. The engagement between the US and its former-allies is basically to prevent any chance for real ‘peace’. The idea is to keep the pot boiling so that the US can justify its presence in Afghanistan. 

In the process, both friends and foes will have to pay the price; like Gen. Raziq did today and many others did before him. Everything is fair in a dirty war. 

MNA/TT

News Code 138913

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