Afghan election commissioners recommended suspending today’s parliamentary vote in Kandahar Province, after the assassination of one of the nation’s most powerful security chiefs dealt a stunning blow to the Western-backed government.
Kandahar police commander General Abdul Razeq on Thursday was killed outside the provincial governor’s office, when a bodyguard opened fire on a group of officials as they left a meeting with General Scott Miller, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Miller was not injured, but the regional intelligence agency commander was killed and the provincial governor severely wounded, decimating the leadership of one of the nation’s most strategically important provinces.
Razeq was one of the most powerful political figures in Afghanistan and a formidable opponent of the Taliban, with unchallenged authority across the volatile south.
The recommendation to suspend the vote in Kandahar must still be approved by a vote of the Afghan National Security Council and other agencies, and some officials said that any delay would threaten the whole process and hand the Taliban a major propaganda victory.
“The security agencies will vote to hold the election in Kandahar on time because there are enough troops to provide security,” one senior official said.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said it was too soon to say what effect Razeq’s death would have, but added that the US military’s mission was unaltered.
The attack underlined how precarious the situation remains in Afghanistan after more than 17 years of war and even after Taliban and US officials have opened preliminary contacts to find a basis for future peace talks.
It was unclear how the attack would affect a peace process, following a meeting last week of Taliban officials and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, but it complicates an already difficult situation.
Mattis said he had not spoken to Miller and could not confirm the Taliban’s claim of responsibility, but believed the attack would not affect Miller’s security arrangements or US military movements in Afghanistan.
The Taliban yesterday issued a fresh warning not to take part in the election, telling people to stay at home and saying it would shut down roads and would be “closely monitoring all developments.”
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