WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011 — President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai today vowed that despite the assassination of the chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, progress toward a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan will continue undeterred.
The two presidents spoke briefly with reporters before a meeting in New York.
Two suicide bombers detonated themselves at the home of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who headed the council responsible for the Afghan government’s efforts to bring former insurgents back into Afghan society. Rabbani was killed, and the council’s secretary, Mohammad Massoom Stanekzai, was wounded. The bombers had feigned interest in conducting reconciliation talks, officials said.
“He was a man who cared deeply about Afghanistan and had been a valued advisor to President Karzai, and was an enormous contributor to rebuilding the country, so it is a tragic loss,” Obama said to Karzai. “We want to extend our heartfelt condolences to you and to his family, and the people of Afghanistan.
“But, Mr. President, I think we both believe that despite this incident, we will not be deterred from creating a path whereby Afghans can live in freedom and safety and security and prosperity,” he added,“and that it is going to be important to continue the efforts to bring all elements of Afghan society together to end what has been a senseless cycle of violence.”
Calling Rabbani’s death “a terrible loss,” Karzai hailed the slain leader as a patriot.
“The mission that he had undertaken was vital … for the Afghan people and for the security of our country and for peace in our country,” he said. “We will miss him very, very much. … But as you rightly say, this will not deter us from continuing on the path that we have, and we’ll definitely succeed.”
NATO military leaders condemned the assassination.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the alliance’s supreme allied commander for Europe, called the attack “an attempt to silence all those working on the peace initiative for Afghanistan.”
“This assassination is only another cowardly act of violence,” he added,“but it will not deter the important work of reconciliation.”
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said the attack proves the Taliban’s intentions.
“This is another outrageous indicator that, regardless of what Taliban leadership outside the country say, they do not want peace, but rather war,” he said. “Their only goal with this completely immoral act is to turn the clock back to the darkness synonymous with the Taliban movement.
“Our condolences go out to the families of Professor Rabbani and Minister Stanekzai,” he continued. “We will continue to work closely with our Afghan partners in our march toward peace, and to hold those responsible for this heinous act accountable for their crimes against the people of Afghanistan.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)