As Afghanistan hurtles towards 2014, the fundamentals seem to remain unchanged. The registration for the presidential elections next year showed that a well-established elite and powerful warlords are once again teaming up to perpetuate their control over power. They are even trying hitherto unimaginable alliances across traditionally hostile ethnic groups to woo a population that continues to be driven by tribal loyalties. And the Taliban remain indefatigable in their zeal to defeat Afghanistan’s democratic experiment. In 2009, they had prevented large sections of the electorate from reaching the booths. They are likely to do the same in 2014. The other strategy of discrediting the democratic process was the assassination of either candidates or elected government servants and officials so that administration remained perpetually hamstrung. That may have been the reason behind the recent assassination of Arsallah Jamal, the provincial governor of Logar province. Like Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the president and governor of Kunduz at the time of his assassination in 2011, Jamal had been a crucial cog in the Hamid Karzai administration. Without the support of provincial governors like Jamal, it may be virtually impossible for Mr Karzai to either hold elections on time or ensure the hold of his clan on power.
Nothing suits the Taliban better. With the exit date for international troops drawing closer, they want to remind the people that the Karzai government is incapable of ensuring security and good governance. That Jamal helped the arrest of a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan could have made him a hate figure for the Taliban. Even otherwise, the killing of a governor and an ally of the Karzai government could only boost the image of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, who has asked for fresh sacrifices in Eid. It may also be his way of avenging a forthcoming deal between the Karzai administration and the Americans, who are looking to stay on in Afghanistan with less responsibility.