washingtonpost.com
Taliban suspected in car-bomb death of Afghan district leader, two others

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 16, 2010; A06

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- The governor of a southern Afghanistan district that has become a key focus of U.S. military efforts to root out the Taliban was killed Tuesday in a bombing, Afghan and U.S. officials said.

Also Tuesday, four NATO troops were killed in eastern and southern Afghanistan, raising the toll in one of the deadliest months for U.S.-led international forces in the nearly nine-year war.

Abdul Jabar, the chief of Arghandab district in the southern province of Kandahar, was returning home from work at 4:30 p.m. with his 17-year-old son and two bodyguards when a car bomb detonated next to his car, Arghandab police chief Zamaray Khan said. The son and one of the bodyguards were also killed.

"The district chief was a very honest man," Khan said. "He had no personal enemies."

Khan said authorities suspect that the Taliban was responsible. "They are here, and they are the only people who can do it," he said.

The Taliban has assassinated numerous government employees in southern Afghanistan, hindering U.S. efforts to bolster the government's presence in Kandahar and surrounding areas.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that there have been attacks on government officials," said Ben Rowswell, chief of the Canadian-led provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar. "That's what you would expect from an insurgency that feels threatened by efforts to connect the people to their government."

Last week, a suicide bomber killed more than 50 people celebrating the wedding of a police officer in Arghandab.

Western officials say it has been hard to recruit bureaucrats and police officers in Kandahar and other provinces where the central government has historically had a weak presence, because southern Afghanistan remains volatile and civil servants earn modest wages.

Building up the local government is the cornerstone of an embattled NATO campaign to secure Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban.

At least 44 NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan this month. Tuesday's casualties included two British troops killed in separate shootings in the restive southern province of Helmand, the British military said.

A Polish service member was killed in a rocket attack on a base in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan. An American service member was killed in eastern Afghanistan, military officials said.

The spike in casualties comes as the U.S. military is deploying an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan amid rising violence.

"This is a tough loss," Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, one of the top U.S. commanders in southern Afghanistan, said of Jabar's death. "We knew the enemy was going to fight back because of the dramatic improvements that have taken place in Arghandab."

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, condemned the assassination.

"This attack shows the insurgents cannot offer a better alternative for peace and security," McChrystal said in a statement. "Their actions will only increase the suffering of those who seek a better future for Afghanistan."

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard in Kabul contributed to this report.

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