Central & South Asia
Profile: Arsala Rahmani
Death of senior member of Afghanistan's high peace council strikes another blow to efforts to negotiate with Taliban.
Last Modified: 15 May 2012 14:53

Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban official turned Afghan peace negotiator, with long-term links to various groups in Afghanistan became an ideal addition to the High Peace Council (HPC), the group set up by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, to liaise between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

In the HPC, Rahmani, a former Taliban-era minister, became a chief negotiator between Kabul and the group he had left in 2001.

In particular, Rahmani's connections to the group led him to head the committee on the release of Taliban prisoners from the prison in the US-led Bagram air base and other detention facilities within the country.

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Also of great value to Rahmani's role in the HPC was the fact that he was among only a handful of former Taliban members who managed to maintain contact with the Quetta Shura, the Pakistan-based group believed to be leading the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

In a 2009 report to US President Obama, General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, said the Quetta Shura posed the largest threat to the forces then under his command.

A senior security official, speaking on condition of anomymity, told the AFP news agency that Rahmani, who had earlier expressed his optimism regarding negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul, had  "established contacts with senior Taliban leaders", shortly before his death.

Rahmani was in his second term as a member of the Meshrano Jirga , upper house, of the Afghan national assembly, when he was selected to be one of the 70 members of the HPC.

He was appointed to his political post by Karzai in 2005 and again in 2010.

Prior to agreeing to the Afghan president's calls for reconciliation among his US-backed government and leaders of the group, Rahmani himself had held office during Taliban rule.

Influential figure

Madrasa educated himself, Rahmani would be appointed deputy minister of higher education soon after the Taliban took Kabul in 1996.

In his five-year tenure from 1996 to 2001, Rahmani's close contact with the group's new recruits made him an influential figure within the Taliban.

Rahmani was one of about 70 influential Afghans and former Taliban appointed to try to reconcile with fighters [Al Jazeera]

Affiliation with the Taliban would see the Paktia-born Rahmani's  assets sanctioned by the United Nations starting in 1999 when the United Nations Security Council resolution 1267 officially called for sanctions against senior Taliban members that included a travel ban and freezing of financial assets.

Rahmani's assets would remain frozen until July 16, 2011, when lobbying by president Karzai would see his name, along with 13 others, dropped from the original UNSC resolution in a bid to aid the peace process.

Prior to his role in the Taliban, Rahmani had been Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs under the government of then President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

During the war with the Soviets, Rahmani fought alongside the group Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami, where he rose to the rank of commander.

Under his direction, the group launched operations into four provinces near Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami's central base in the Shahikot mountains of southwest Paktia province.

Rabbani would again lead Rahmani in his role as head of the HPC until the former Afghan president and mujahidin leader was killed last September by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy.

Following Rabbani's death last fall, Rahmani had served as the acting head of the High Peace Council, until Rabbani's US-educated son, Salahuddin, was officially appointed to take his father's position last month.

Though, in his years as part of the Karzai government, Rahmani, moved freely throughout Kabul, under the protection of the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence service, the NDS said they had received information about planned assassination plots against him.

“We had twice informed Rahmani about the plot. The information was shared with him by an NDS operative in person,” a spokesman for the Afghan spy service, Shafiqullah Tahiri, said.


Arsala Rahmani was killed in western Kabul on May 13, 2012 when an unknown attacker in a vehicle shot the one-time Taliban official.

Rahmani was on his way to a meeting with politicians and other officials in a government-run media centre in Kabul when an unknown gunman in another vehicle pulled up alongside his vehicle and shot him.

The Taliban, saying "others are involved in this", have denied any role in the assassination of the 70-year-old Rahmani.

The little-known Mahaz-e-Mullah Dadullah, or Mullah Dadullah Front, claimed to be behind the assassination of Rahmani saying he had been targeted because of his connections to the government in Kabul and its foreign allies.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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