The killing of chief peace negotiator and former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani has robbed Afghanistan of the only figure with the range of international contacts to end the conflict there, an influential Arab colleague said on Saturday.
“Whoever killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the intention was to kill any opportunity for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said Abdullah Anas, a former anti--Soviet fighter and Algerian Islamist activist, who has worked behind the scenes in recent years to prepare contacts between warring Afghan factions.
“After this assassination, to be honest, I do not know what will happen ... Any group who was behind this assassination meant to close the door of stability in Afghanistan,” he said.
Rabbani’s killing at his Kabul home on Tuesday by a bomber claiming to be carrying a message of peace from the Taliban leadership has triggered fears of dangerous divisions in Afghans fighting the Taliban-led insurgency.
In the past year, Anas has assisted the High Peace Council overseen by Rabbani and a few weeks ago was named Rabbani’s adviser for peace talks in Europe.
Speaking from Britain, where he is now based, Anas said Rabbani’s varied career in politics, academia and international Islamic circles, and his record of cooperating with Afghan ethnic groups in the anti-Soviet war of the 1980s, made him acceptable to many inside the country and out as an interlocutor in peace talks.
Anas said Rabbani was not comparable to other politicians inside Afghanistan, most of whom where limited in their contacts due to ethnic or political background and therefore not well placed for the international mediation likely to be required.
Some Afghans fear the country’s most high-profile killing since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban will re-open fractures from Afghanistan’s civil war and make peace more elusive.
“Politically this assassination is assassinating stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan, because to target such a personality, so balanced politically and socially, it’s at the heart of that goal. There is no way for happiness to come back to Afghanistan but through reconciliation. Nothing else,” Anas said.
Rabbani, a professor, president and mujahidin fighter, was the most prominent surviving leader of the ethnic Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance of fighters and politicians. In recent years he had established an uneasy alliance with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who comes from the largely Pashtun south, but the rapprochement and the push for talks with the Taliban were not supported by all of his old allies.
Not everyone is mourning Rabbani. His appointment was divisive, largely because of his mujahidin past and his role in the civil war that followed the fall of the Soviet-backed government and devastated Kabul.
However, Anas said Rabbani had exceptional connections across Afghanistan’s ethnic communities that were vital for peace talks.
“Although he was a Tajik ... his organization during the Soviet war contained many, many big commanders from the Pashtuns, from Kandahar ... Paktia, Jalalabad and elsewhere,” Anas said.
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