Afghan intelligence officials announced today that they have detained six people involved in a plot to kill President Hamid Karzai. The would-be assassins – allegedly with links to the Haqqani network and Al Qaeda – recruited one of the president’s bodyguards to help kill him.
The assassination plot comes following a wave of high-level assassinations in Afghanistan, including former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, just last month.
Though Afghan authorities apparently managed to foil the plot before any of the assailants reached Mr. Karzai, news that insurgent infiltration reached as high as the president’s bodyguards have observers worried it will shake the foundations of government and cause politicians to recede from regular public interaction.
Still, others contend that such assassination attempts, while attention grabbing, do not indicate the strength of the insurgency.
“You cannot stop these kinds of attacks, but the presence of the Taliban in rural areas has really decreased, which shows that they are becoming weak. Now they are focusing on the high-profile assassinations,” says Mahmoud Khan, a member of parliament from Kandahar. Still, he adds, “The overall political situation in the country is getting worse. Before Rabbani’s assassination, Afghanistan wanted to have balanced relations with Pakistan. Now that has changed and they are reaching out to India.”
Karzai is currently on a trip to India and has made increasingly critical remarks about Pakistan’s alleged support of the insurgency inside Afghanistan, accusing it of playing a role in Rabbani’s death. Throughout Afghanistan, anger toward Pakistan has steadily risen in recent weeks.
If the involvement of the Haqqani network, which has strong links to Pakistan, is confirmed in this most recent plot, tensions are likely be further tested. It is also likely to overshadow a NATO announcement earlier today that they had killed a senior leader in the organization.
As the US and other Western nations begin to scale back their involvement here, many Afghans worry that Pakistan may attempt to grab more influence.
Meanwhile, the recent wave of assassinations has made many Afghans question the ability of their government to provide stability and effectively manage relations with other regional powers.
Earlier this summer, Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president’s half-brother and one of the biggest powerbrokers in the south, was assassinated by a close associate in Kandahar. The killing came after the police chief of Kandahar was killed inside the police compound by a suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform.
The ability of the insurgency to turn those inside the government or infiltrate it with their own people, stands as a dark reminder of the trouble the government has had connecting with the Afghan people.
“It’s really easy for the enemy to recruit these kind of people. There is a big gap between the government and the people. They’re all very sad and the Taliban can recruit them easily, even if they’re bodyguards or teachers,” says Abdul Hadi Wahidi, a former member of parliament from Laghman who served on the defense commission. “The politicians have already started to become more careful, and after this they will be more careful.”