On Sunday morning, a Taliban suicide bombing attack struck at the entourage of Ismail Khan, the Afghan Minister of Energy and Water, in Herat, according to the Afghan Voice Agency writing in Persian. Ismail Khan is from the western, Dari Persian-speaking city of Herat, and was its governor before being inducted into the central government’s cabinet. The attack killed five persons and wounded 17, and left Ismail Khan unhurt but angry.
Ismail Khan had come to Herat a week ago with government permission, for the Eid al-Fitra or Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. He spent the last week meeting with people and is said to have heard from them increasing urgency about the deterioration of security in Herat.
The old-time warlord announced that he would no longer be attending cabinet meetings, in protest against the deteriorating security situation. Ismail Khan had reestablished himself in Herat in late 2001 as part of the Northern Alliance overthrow of the Taliban, and thereafter ruled it with an iron fist. He came into increasing conflict with local tribal leaders, and for the sake of social peace, President Hamid Karzai brought him to the capital as a cabinet minister. He must be furious that he no can no longer as much as visit his old province without nearly being killed by Taliban, a sign of bad security indeed, since there are few Pashtuns and fewer Taliban in Herat.
Ismail Khan said that he refuses to sit in cabinet meeings until the security situation is improved.
He is also quoted by AVA as saying that “The fate of the Americans in Afghanistan will be worse than that of the Russians.”
That observation struck me as ominous. Members of the Karzai cabinet are hiving off and betting against the US military’s ability to to keep peace in the country.
Meanwhile, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah pledged to continue the charge against Karzai for voter fraud.
The enmity between Abdullah and Karzai stands in the way of the favored US means of dealing with the problem. The US wants a national unity government. Both Karzai and Ismail are refusing this way of proceeding (Abdullah fears no post given him in a Karzai government will have meaningful power attached to it).
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