The death of former Afghan president and leading peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani in a brazen suicide attack has shocked Afghanistan and dealt a blow to hopes of a negotiated settlement with the insurgency.
Rabbani was killed on September 20 in his home during an audience with a man who said he was bearing a "special message" from Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
Who will fill Rabbani's shoes? Can anyone?
Former Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah believes a new High Peace Council leader can be found, but also thinks the Taliban doesn't believe in peace talks. He told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that until Pakistan severs all its ties with the Taliban, peace will remain out of reach.
RFE/RL correspondent Zarif Nazar spoke to Abdullah, who leads the Coalition for Change and Hope, Afghanistan's main democratic political opposition group.
RFE/RL: What are your views on the terrorist attack that killed Rabbani?
Abdullah Abdullah: It was a tragic event and a loss to the people of Afghanistan. A person who dedicated 50 years of his life to attaining peace was unfortunately killed by the enemy of Afghanistan and that of the Afghan people. They have committed a crime against the people of Afghanistan and brought death to thousands of innocent Afghans. They showed their real faces, their dark intentions, and because of this, innocent blood was shed [on September 20].
The enemy of Afghanistan wants to destroy everything good and positive in the country [with] the kinds of atrocities they have committed over the years. For all [Rabbani's] work toward achieving peace and his work toward reconciliation, for them to respond in this way, shows the dark motives and character of this group. "
RFE/RL: Who do you think was behind the assassination?
Abdullah: To answer this, we must begin a full and comprehensive investigation. It might be too early to say, but questions should be asked as to how these men entered Rabbani's compound and how they received [an] audience with him. These are the first questions that come to mind.
We all know who was behind these attacks, but it is important to investigate how it was done. Unfortunately, this tragic event wasn't the first, nor will it be the last. For this reason, it is important to find answers so the people of Afghanistan know how it was carried out.
RFE/RL: What plans are there for the future of the Peace Council? Who can fill Rabbani's shoes?
Abdullah: We will begin the process in a few days time, after things have settled down. It's very difficult to replace a man who has dedicated most of his life to the betterment of his country. But if we all join hands and continue to represent -- and work for -- the people, the hole Rabbani has left might be filled.
RFE/RL: What are your thoughts on the Peace Council's efforts to try and find a negotiated settlement?
Abdullah: Thus far, the Taliban have not demonstrated even one sign of interest of seriously coming to the table to discuss a political settlement. The attempt at peace talks has been the only approach [taken so far]. This has encouraged the Taliban to increase the violence and create fear among the people. They think that using this strategy will allow them to regain power in Afghanistan.
Even before this incident, I was confident that the Taliban does not believe in peace talks, that they want to overthrow the current government, that they want to create an Islamic state, and that every crime they commit is done under the pretense of Islam.
There is also continued support for the Taliban from our neighbor [Pakistan]. Day by day, the government is losing people's support and trust. Government bodies like the police and military have not been developed, and there is no rule of law. So this encourages the Taliban to continue terrorist attacks and bring harm to the people of Afghanistan.
If there is to be a serious plan to end this, then more pressure must be placed on Pakistan to sever its ties with the Taliban.