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Good Reads: Why the assassination of former Afghan president Rabbani matters

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Kamran Jebreili/AP

(Read caption) An Afghan holds a photo of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani during a rally after he was killed yesterday in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Sept. 21.

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It’s not that things were going all that well in Afghanistan to begin with, but the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani – an Islamic scholar who had served as the president of Afghanistan in the early 1990s – by a suicide bomber yesterday has persuaded some analysts and journalists that Afghanistan is destined for an all-out civil war.

Mr. Rabbani was a senior leader of the Northern Alliance, a collection of militant groups who fought against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, and then largely fought each other for control of the country when the Soviets left. In the past year, Rabbani was head of a peace council that aimed to persuade Taliban moderates to stop fighting and start talking about rebuilding Afghanistan. For this reason, people see his assassination as a statement by the Taliban that negotiation is not in the cards.

The mechanics of the suicide bombing seem pretty straightforward. A man posing as a Taliban member willing to negotiate walks into Rabbani’s house. Afghan security being what it is, the Taliban member gets a perfunctory pat-down, but no one checks his turban. The Taliban meets Rabbani, bows, and detonates the bomb.

Most of the press focuses on Rabbani’s importance to the peace process. In The New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin writes that Rabbani’s stature as a religious man and a freedom fighter will make him hard to replace as a negotiator.


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