Unpacking the Attempted Assassination of Asadullah Khalid
A suicide bombing in Kabul on December 6 targeted the head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), Asadullah Khalid, in an event that has rattled Afghan elites and rekindled controversy between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Khalid is known to be a staunch Taliban opponent, and he ranks among Kabul’s most influential, yet controversial, powerbrokers with significant sway in the Karzai administration. Given Khalid’s role in Afghanistan’s political space and security apparatus and the nature of the attack, Thursday’s event could have significant implications as 2014 approaches. Afghan suspicions are pointed at Pakistan over the attack, and despite Taliban claims of responsibility, the attempt on Khalid’s life will likely complicate the peace process and tenuous reconciliation efforts by driving deeper a wedge of distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Asadullah Khalid is a well-entrenched figure in the post-9/11 network of Afghan leadership. Accounts of his history before 2001 vary: some accounts place him at Tajikistan University from 1996 to 2001, while others state that he was a follower of Muhajideen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf collecting Stinger missiles on his behalf in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, he was appointed as head of the NDS chief’s “5th department.” He served as the Governor of Ghazni province from 2003 to 2005 and Governor of Kandahar province from 2005 to 2008. He failed to gain enough votes to transition into a ministerial position in 2008, but he was appointed to serve as the Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs from June 2010 to August 2012. Khalid also took over as Director of Security for the southern zone of Afghanistan after the assassination of Ahmad Wali Karzai in 2011, while retaining his ministerial job and his seat on the National Security Council.4 He transitioned to his present position as NDS chief in September following the completion of Maj. Gen. Rahmatullah Nabil’s two-year term.