An assassin today shot dead a former high-ranking Taliban official working on reconciling Afghanistan's insurgency with the government, a fresh blow to peace efforts as Kabul announced it was gradually taking the lead from the US-led coalition for providing security in much of the country. A gunman with a silenced pistol killed Arsala Rahmani as he was riding in his car in one of the capital's most secure areas near Kabul University, police said.
The death of Rahmani, a top member of the Afghan peace council and a senator in parliament's upper house, dealt another setback to efforts to negotiate a political resolution to the decade-long war. Rahmani was a former Taliban official who reconciled with the government and was active in trying to set up formal talks with the insurgents. His assassination follows that of the council's head last year. He was shot just hours before President Hamid Karzai announced the third of a five-stage transition process that will have the Afghan National Security forces in control of the country by the end of 2014, when most foreign combat troops are to leave the country.