Exclusive: Amb. Dobbins Says Rabbani's Death Is Validation of Talks
Posted by Jacob Stokes
Today former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani -- who as head of the Afghan High Peace Council was tasked with finding a political solution to the war in Afghanistan -- was assassinated by a suicide bomber. The bomber, who hid the bomb in his turban, posed as a member of the Taliban looking to discuss reconciliation with the government before blowing up himself and his target.
This tragic event is clearly a huge setback to the peace process, if for no other reason than it will further strain relations between regional and ethnic groups. Anand Gopal argues on the AfPak channel that Rabbani’s death is just the latest in a campaign to kill off players that aren’t amenable to a pro-Taliban deal.
But in an exclusive interview with NSN and Democracy Arsenal, Ambassador James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation and author of two landmark reports (here and here) on the process of peace talks in Afghanistan, explains that the attack shows the U.S. and the Afghan government are on the right track with negotiations. Amb. Dobbins explains:
Assuming that the assassination was in connection with [Rabbani’s] leadership of the Karzai Peace Council and his U.S.-backed efforts to launch a peace process, it suggests that some elements within the insurgency greatly fear this initiative, both because it has great public appeal throughout Afghanistan and because other elements of the insurgency have been seriously considering engaging in such a process. Tragic as Rabbani’s assassination is, I would thus see it as a validation of the course Karzai and the U.S. are on.
Remember, this week Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the network of the same name, said, “We would support whatever solution our shura members suggest for the future of Afghanistan,” meaning the Quetta Shura, or Afghan Taliban leadership. That was big news. Still is.
There’s no doubt that Rabbani’s death is a big blow, but we always knew the process would be prolonged at best. As Dobbins says, today's tragedy is in some ways a validation of the course American and the Afghan government have embarked on – not reason to depart from it.