Top Afghan Commander Assassinated Amid Election Violence

By Leah Cerilli

Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq was shot dead in a Taliban attack on October 18, following a security meeting. The Taliban released a statement saying that Raziq, “a brutal police chief”, was the primary target. Abdul Mohmin, Kandahar Province’s intelligence chief, was also killed in the same attack that wounded three NATO personnel as well. General Scott Miller, the head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was present during the attack, drawing his sidearm but ultimately not firing. The attacker was later killed by US forces in a shootout.

At the time of the attack, General Raziq had left a meeting and was heading towards \a helicopter taking US members back to Kabul. Provincial officials such as the governor and the police chief were also accompanying the group when the gunshots suddenly rang out. At least two hand grenade explosions were also reported.

General Raziq was the provincial police commander of Kandahar, being one of the most powerful military and political figures in Afghanistan. He had been previously accused of human rights abuses such as torture and was a key opponent against the Taliban. He was considered by many to be a symbol of the anti-Taliban struggle, previously surviving nearly 20 murder attempts.

This is a significant blow to Afghan and NATO counter-insurgency campaigns, in which nearly the entire leadership of Kandahar Province have been killed. This is particularly difficult for Afghanistan as Kandahar is considered to be one of the more stable provinces in the country, raising concerns over the region’s future stability.

It is also particularly troubling as parliamentary elections are long overdue in the Kandahar region. Elections were previously scheduled for October 20, but they have been delayed again for an additional week after the recent attacks. The parliamentary elections have continuously been delayed for over three years, since the current assembly’s term was supposed to end in 2015. Over these past few years, the government has been reforming the government and election system with the help of the United States.

There is international concern that this attack could result in further delays or reduce voter turnout. Afghan officials previously warned that attacks ahead of the elections were likely. The Taliban has warned potential voters not to take part in the elections, as they claim it is imposed by foreigners. At least ten candidates have been killed across the country leading up to the elections, in addition to several attacks on voting centers.

The election is supposed to serve as an indicator of how Afghanistan can handle organizing free and fair elections ahead of the presidential election in 2019. It will also test the Afghan military and police in preventing Taliban attacks and securing voting areas. This is particularly important since this will be the first election since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, leaving election security largely up to Afghans. NATO’s Resolute Support Mission has offered to provide backup if requested. Shortly following the Kandahar attack, the Interior Ministry said forces are now on high alert and put in place measures needed to ensure the elections occur without further incident.