Posted by: Christian | May 15, 2007

The Silent Campaign of Assassinations in Afghanistan

May 16, 2007.

So who is killing all the former Hizb-i Islami commanders? Over the last year and a half nearly twenty members of parliament or provincial councils have been assassinated. And in the last several months a number of high-profile assassinations have occurred. I call it a “Silent Campaign” because of the lack of concern that it is causing in the West, and in much of Afghan society as well.

The most recent high profile killing was that of Abdul Sabur Farid, an appointed senator and former Mujahideen era Prime Minister from the northern province of Kapisa. This was soon followed by the killing of a former commander who had operated on the Shomali plains north of Kabul. And only a little while earlier Bashir Baghlani, a former Taliban-appointed governor of Baghlan province, was a victim of a “mysterious death.” What these three all have in common is that they are all former Hizb-i Islami senior level commanders who operated in the north. [Note: often written up as “Hezb-e Islami”]

So who is doing the killings of former Hizbis? Is it the Taliban? Not according to their spokesman. And they usually will take credit for their own work. I actually believe them, especially since the killings are of northern personalities.

Another possible theory is that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the former head of Hizb-i Islami and pre-Taliban favorite of Pakistan, is behind the killings.

Hekmatyar says: “Who, me?”
gulbuddin hekmatyar

Hekmatyar has recently vowed his loyalty to al Qaeda and expressed his ill will towards US/NATO and the Afghan government. Is he bitter that his former commanders have mostly “reformed” themselves and peacefully joined the political process? Maybe. But I doubt he has the capabilities or the desire to carry out a campaign of assassinations. In fact, in a speech sent to Pajwok news agency, Hekmatyar expressed his condolences to Farid’s family while pointing his fingers at the prime suspects:

“Hekmatyar stated that the murderers of Ustad Farid were previously the servants of Russia and now that they are under the command of America against the Mujahideen and the Afghan people.”

By “servants of Russia” Hekmatyar means the faction formerly led by Ahmed Shah Massoud: Shura-yi Nazar. That’s where the northern aspects to these killings comes into play. Are the Tajiks of Shura-yi Nazar killing off the predominantly Pashtun former commanders of Hizb-i Islami in the north? While the killings could also be old vendettas or current petty rivalries, the possibility of Shura-yi Nazar elements ridding the north of political and ethnic Pashtun rivals remains a strong possibility.

Or this could all be rumors and speculation about a series of unrelated killings. It is Afghanistan after all.

What is not speculation is the lack of outrage on the part of the West and the Afghan public. That’s probably because, as former Hizb-i Islami commanders, the victims of these assassinations are remembered for incessantly rocketing Kabul, switching sides numerous times, and generally being the typical bad-guy warlord commander type. I’m sure the list of their victims is a rather long one.


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