Taliban kill Karzai's closest associates as NATO begins handover

A senior advisor to the Afghan President has been assassinated in the capital, Kabul. As the Taliban are stepping up their assault on Afghan officials, NATO began handing control over one of the country's 34 provinces to local forces on Sunday.

Jan Mohammad Khan was governor of the Uruzgan province and a key ally of Hamid Karzai in the region.

One of the province’s lawmakers, Mohammad Hashem Watanwal, was also killed in the attack.

The deaths come less than a week after Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who ran the south of the country, was gunned down. The assassination was shortly followed by four more deaths, when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a memorial service for Karzai.

The Taliban is stepping up its assault on Afghan officials, as NATO began handing control over to local forces. But there is concern the new guard are too divided, untrained and ill-equipped to fend off the insurgency by themselves.

US not going anywhere – journalist

Meanwhile, Progressive Radio news host and author Stephen Lendman believes that, in reality, due to strategic reasons, NATO has no withdrawal plan from Afghanistan.

“Combat forces may come out – private security forces may come in and take their place,” he said. “America came to Afghanistan to stay, they are not leaving.”

“There is no withdrawal plan from Iraq or Afghanistan. There was no withdrawal plan from Japan, from Germany, from South Korea, from Italy,” he added. “The only way a withdrawal would ever happen is if the strategic reasons change.”

Afghanistan is a very important strategic point in the region for the US, Lendman says.

“There is a lot of oil in the Caspian area,” he said, and America had chosen Afghanistan as a future “pipeline transit system.”

“Russia is competing with America, and America wants every leg up it can get,” he added. “But [Afghanistan] is also a land based aircraft carrier targeting Russia, targeting China.”

The half-brother and a key aide of the Afghan president were both killed within the last week, but Lendman believes there is more determination than symbolism here as the “Afghan resistance” would not stand for occupation.

“They’ll take any opportunity they can to target any official, at any level, at any time,” he said. “They never know when it may happen, but when it does, they want to take full advantage of it.”

Stephen Lendman recalled an earlier article he wrote about Afghanistan several years ago, entitled “The other lost war”.

“I mentioned that if Hamid Karzai, the president, gets out on the street with a small security detail – not practically the marine division that guards him – he would not last five minutes. The Taliban, the resistance in Afghanistan, want to liberate their country. That’s what they are fighting for.”

Karen Kwiatkowsky, a retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel told RT that NATO’s presence in Afghanistan has done no good for the country:

“We have actually created, in part, the power vacuums. We have certainly created the corruption that goes on in Afghanistan since we have been there. We pay people; we have facilitated the regrowth of opium trade. We haven’t done Afghanistan any favors,” she said.

Kwiatkowsky maintained President Karzai does not really have much power in the country.

“He has always been an American puppet since we put him there in December 2001. It’s amazing he is still in place and alive. He has no credibility outside Kabul,” she concluded.

­Stop the War Coalition activist Jim Brann believes the Afghan forces will not be able to take care of security on their own after NATO troops withdraw from the country.

”I think you have to ask the question ‘Security for who or for what?’ when they talk about handing over the responsibility for security. Because, by all accounts, for example, the Afghan Army, as it’s called, is very much biased to certain ethnic groups. So it starts with that handicap from the beginning. The idea that it’ll be an impartial force seems to extremely unlikely,”
he said.

”What they mean by handover is also very questionable. I would imagine that NATO forces will be hovering in all cases in the background, presumably, providing air power and etc. So the Afghan forces won’t be very independent,” Brann added.

­Brian Becker, the director of the anti-war ANSWER coalition, believes that without NATO’s support President Karzai may not only lose his power, but also may become a much easier target for Taliban.

“The Karzai government by itself cannot survive without the NATO forces, but the NATO forces can’t stay forever,” he said. “Large parts of the country are not under NATO or Karzai government control whatsoever.”

“If Karzai’s brother, the most powerful force in southern Afghanistan in Kandahar can be assassinated, if the next day the funeral service can be blown up by a suicide bomber, and then Karzai’s senior intelligence officer is also gunned down, then I think you would have to draw the conclusion that no one within the Karzai government is in fact immune from a possible assassination attempt,” said Becker.