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Police Chief's Assassination Has Significant Implications for Afghani Taliban


By Dr. James Hess
Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Intelligence Studies, American Military University 

Afghanistan’s provincial police chief in Kandahar, Lieutenant General Abdul Raziq, was assassinated on Oct. 18. At the time of his death, Raziq was meeting with General Scott Miller, Commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and Kandahar Governor Zalmai Wesa.

Reportedly, one of the governor’s security detail shot Raziq in the back. General Miller was unharmed. However, Khalid Pashton, a Kandahar legislator, was killed and Wesa was wounded. The Afghan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Raziq Had Long Been Assassination Target

Raziq, a controversial figure, was reportedly the target of at least 29 previous assassination attempts. He was a powerful supporter of the U.S. and NATO efforts to build the new government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA).

Although he was charged with torture and intimidation, it was apparent that Raziq was successful in combating Afghan Taliban activity in Kandahar province.

Timing of Assassination No Accident with Upcoming Elections

It is not surprising that the Afghan Taliban carried out the attack prior to the elections. As a result, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission postponed polling in southern portions of the province for one week.

Although there have been many reports and indications of future peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, one thing is certain. Because Afghan Taliban ideology rejects secularism, the upcoming elections are not acceptable to the Taliban. While the elections don’t necessarily equate to a secular government, there is little reason to believe that the Afghan people would elect anyone with the Afghan Taliban’s extreme Deobandi Islam views.

Reasons for Raziq’s Assassination

There are many reasons why the Afghan Taliban would conduct this attack. First, the need to remove Raziq was essential. Raziq reportedly had an extensive informant network that was successful at identifying and ultimately removing local Afghan Taliban members.

Second, the Afghan Taliban’s ability to influence the populace and combat the GIRoA is weakened with each successive election. Finally, the Afghan Taliban needs to ensure that they remain viable. High-  profile attacks afford them that viability.

Attack Intended to Demonstrate Taliban’s Power and Deter Voters

Kandahar province is where the Pashtun Taliban of Afghanistan originated in 1994 after the Soviet withdrawal from its war with War. If Kandahar residents are intimidated by this attack, they might stay away from the polls.

Intimidation, of course, is why the Afghan Taliban would conduct this type of attack. By demonstrating that they can assassinate Raziq, a powerful member of the emerging GIRoA, the Taliban has the potential to weaken local confidence in a fledgling government.

The use of assassinations as a weapon to create (or thwart) change is nothing new. Terrorists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries used targeted killings to great effect. With the assassination of Raziq, the Afghan Taliban may have breathed new life into their deadly insurgency.

About the Author

Dr. James Hess is currently a professor at American Military University. Dr. Hess received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, where he studied improving analytical methodologies in counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism environments. He also completed a fellowship studying the relationship between Islamic jurisprudence and terrorism as an International Relations Research Fellow with the University of Arizona’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.