Grim consequences of Afghan Governor Jamal's death

Arsala Jamal
Image caption Mr Jamal is among about 1,000 mid-level to senior leaders who have been killed in targeted attacks over the last decade

The killing of Arsala Jamal, governor of the Afghan province of Logar, is one of the most high-profile assassinations of a government official since the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in late 2001.

Mr Jamal, 47, was murdered while he was making a speech in a mosque to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha in the provincial capital, Pul-e Alam, some 60km (37 miles) south of Kabul.

He was seen as a close ally of President Karzai and had worked as his campaign manager in the 2009 presidential election.

Mr Jamal worked in key government positions including as governor of the eastern province of Khost which borders the Waziristan tribal region where the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and Haqqani network militants are based.

Arsala Jamal had survived previous attempts on his life as he struggled to govern a province where the insurgency is strong and seeks to expand control.

Image caption The aim of targeted killings is to to demoralise those who work in the government and to discourage people from joining it

He was contacting the Taliban fighters and commanders in an effort to convince them to stop fighting and join the peace process.

Logar is an important province and a key strategic region. It lies on the southern approaches to Kabul and serves as a major gateway to the capital.

The province has been especially violent area this year. Control over roads like the highway from Logar, which enters Kabul from the south, are a key priority for the insurgents.

Logar is home to the world's second biggest copper mine which has attracted Chinese investment worth more than $3bn (£1.85bn).

Getting the Aynak copper mine, the biggest investment in Afghanistan, up and running was one of Mr Jamal's top priorities.

But six years on since the contract was awarded to a Chinese metallurgical group in 2007, the mining has not begun, with problems cited by both the Afghan and Chinese sides.

Regular targets

Government workers, tribal elders, contractors and others working with the government have all been regularly targeted by the insurgents who are fighting the Afghan government and its international allies.

The assassination of Mr Jamal is one of the first major targeted killings this year to reach into the high ranks of the government.

He is the second Logar governor who has been assassinated. Another governor of the province, Abdullah Wardak, was killed by a land mine in September 2008.

In October 2010, Kunduz province Governor Mohammad Omar was killed in an attack inside a mosque.

Over the past decade, about 1,000 mid-level leaders have been killed in targeted attacks in Afghanistan.

They include provincial and district governors, heads and deputy heads of government departments, commanders in the Afghan police and army, politicians, village elders and tribal chiefs.

Taliban insurgents usually accept responsibility for these attacks.

They have repeatedly warned people to stop working with the Afghan government and the US-led Nato forces or face "severe consequences".

The timing of the assassination of Arsala Jamal is also important.

Presidential and provincial council elections are scheduled for April 2014. The role of provincial governors in ensuring the process goes smoothly is critical.

Additionally, Afghanistan has already taken responsibilities for security across the country and foreign combat forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

As the decade-long engagement of international community in Afghanistan draws to an end, it needs competent leaders and managers to run its affairs.

But such assassinations are a blow to the institution-building efforts in this war-torn country. The aim of targeted killings is to to demoralise those who work in the government and to discourage people from joining it.

Killing experienced managers and leaders is hampering the institution-building process which is key for Afghanistan to stand on its own feet.