It is a tough job at the best of times. Being a Provincial Governor in Afghanistan may be prestigious, but any Taliban fighters operating in your area of remit will immediately view you as a prize target.
Arsala Jamal knew he was under severe threat. The Taliban had already tried to kill him five times when he was Governor of Khost Province from 2006 to 2008.
Speaking to Al Jazeera in 2008, he said he knew why they wanted to kill him. “I think these guys are going for ‘Big Bang’,” Jamal said.
“Secondly, Khost is one of the provinces where they have no place. They are not controlling a big area or a district or a village, so probably the only way they can find [strength] is to have suicide attacks and IEDs.”
He was a close friend of President Hamid Karzai – helping to run his election campaign in 2009. After that, he was made acting minister for Borders and Tribal Issues. Thursday would have marked just six months in the job as Governor of Logar.
But unlike Khost Province, where Jamal took pride in the lack of a strong Taliban presence, Logar continues to host the group in large numbers.
On Tuesday, he attended morning prayers in the main mosque of the Provincial capital, Puli Alam. It was the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha and once the Imam had finished leading prayers, he was invited to speak. A microphone in front of him was packed with explosives, said local police, and once detonated he was killed instantly.
Explosives placed inside mosques have been used by the Taliban before. In 2010, the Governor of Kunduz Province – another area of the country with a strong Taliban presence – was killed in such an explosion in a place of worship.
The killings are a reminder that the war here extends well beyond the battle field, and into cities, houses and mosques.
As foreign forces pull back from combat roles ahead of their official withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of next year, Afghan security forces are taking increasing casualties in line with their growing role in the fight. But government employees too are heavily targeted.
As international troops leave the country, the Taliban are unlikely to take any pressure off the Kabul government, seen by the group as illegitimate.
“The Kabul administration and the invaders are not only bent on playing havoc with Afghanistan domestically, but are marginalising the country at a regional and global level by signing colonial agreements and thus procuring reasons for the continuation of the war,” read a statement attributed to the group’s leader, Mullah Omar, released on the occasion of Eid.
President Karzai gave a speech after Eid prayers in Kabul this morning, mirroring his killed friend in Logar, pushing the Taliban to join the government in Kabul. They are unlikely to respond with a yes.