A Taleban suicide bomber posing as a peace envoy has failed in a bid to kill Afghanistan’s intelligence chief in Kabul.
The bomber detonated his explosives around 3pm at a meeting in a guesthouse in the capital used by the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
Asadullah Khalid, head of the NDS, was injured and taken to hospital for emergency treatment. Last night, an NDS spokesman said: “Right now [he] is in good condition. The surgery was a success.”
The Afghan Taleban claimed responsibility for the bombing, which highlighted Afghanistan’s ongoing instability as Nato troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014.
After more than ten years of war against western forces as well as Afghan troops, militants are capable of striking in the heart of the capital.
The attack was almost a carbon copy of last year’s assassination of Afghanistan’s chief peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani. He died at his Kabul home when an insurgent posing as a peace envoy detonated explosives concealed in a turban.
The Afghan government has failed to draw the Taleban into direct talks.
In a video message released by his office, president Hamid Karzai said: “The head of the NDS is now undergoing surgery… the chief of the hospital has told me he is in a good condition and now we hope he will recover and he will be sent for further treatment elsewhere.”
Afghanistan’s parliament approved the nomination of Mr Khalid as the new head of the NDS in September, an appointment that alarmed human rights groups who have long accused the agency of torturing detainees, allegations it denies.
“We will see more similar attacks in order to further increase uncertainty about 2014. It’s part of the psychological warfare by the Taleban,” said Davood Moradian, a former presidential adviser and head of the think-tank, the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies.
Mr Moradian said Mr Khalid was a powerful ally for Mr Karzai since he had built up a network of contacts among the Pashtun community in the south and east of the country, where the insurgency is strongest. He said Mr Khalid was renowned for his tough stance against the Taleban and his belief that the Afghan government needed to take a hard line in any peace talks.
Human rights groups have been troubled by allegations that Mr Khalid ran a torture prison while governor of Kandahar. He denies any wrongdoing.
Mr Khalid built a formidable intelligence network to infiltrate the Taleban while serving as governor of Kandahar and Ghazni provinces, both hotbeds of the insurgency, said Michael Semple, at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard.
“He had access to significant operational funds and used these to run agents deep inside the Taleban in Quetta,” Mr Semple said, referring to the city in southwest Pakistan where many of the Taleban’s leaders are believed to be based.
“He also has a reputation for conducting black operations, bombings and assassinations, which is why the Taleban fear him,” Mr Semple added.
Diplomats saw Mr Khalid was involved in a bid to rig the 2009 presidential election in favour of Mr Karzai, which sparked a protracted showdown with Washington. Mr Khalid was poised to play a critical role in the political transition before the next elections in April, 2014, when Mr Karzai is bound by the constitution to step down.