- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan — The assassination of a former Afghan president reflects the dangers of negotiations with the Taliban: Any effort toward a peace deal can bring deadly action to stop it from factions within the multiheaded insurgency.

Now supporters of the slain Burhanuddin Rabbani angrily warned on Wednesday that there is no hope in seeking negotiations, a key policy of President Hamid Karzai that the United States has backed.

Afghans involved in peace efforts are fearful of reaching out to anyone within the Taliban and risk being targeted themselves.

Many fear such assassinations could accelerate as the Taliban and other insurgents try to bolster their positions ahead of a planned withdrawal of U.S. and other international combat forces at the end of 2014.

“How are we supposed to negotiate with these wild devils?” said the governor of northern Balkh province, Atta Mohammad Noor. “We need peace, but peace with who? We want peace with people who know the value of peace.”

“The Taliban are not sympathetic. They are killing our people. They killed our leader - Rabbani. We don’t want to waste time with these types of people,” he told the Associated Press.

The 70-year-old Rabbani was the leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, which helped overthrow Taliban rule in the country.

He headed the country’s High Peace Council, set up by Mr. Karzai to work toward a political solution to the decade-long war. It has made little headway since it was formed a year ago, but it is backed by many in the international community as helping move toward a settlement.

Rabbani was killed in his Kabul home Tuesday evening by a suicide attacker with a bomb in his turban, who gained entry by convincing officials including Mr. Karzai’s advisers that he was a Taliban leader wanting to reconcile.

The U.S.-led coalition said another attacker also was involved, but that could not be confirmed by Afghan officials.

The Interior Ministry said one person had been detained in connection with Rabbani’s death - the driver of the car who took the bomber to Rabbani’s house. Mr. Noor said the driver was found with incriminating documents, but did not reveal further details.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, police chief in Kabul, said the Taliban were behind it.

When contacted by the AP, Taliban spokesmen declined to discuss the killing.

Efforts at bringing the Taliban into negotiations have long failed to make progress for multiple reasons.

Some Taliban figures have been willing to enter talks but their actual influence within the movement has proven unclear. Taliban members are not always on the same page, and the movement includes several powerful allies who could feel threatened by any peace effort.