19 December, 2006

Asadullah Wafa: the new Governor of Helmand.

So, the Times got it right after all. Mohammad Daud has been sacked as governor of Helmand, the southern Afghanistan province in which the majority of British troops are based, and the scene of some of the fiercest recent battles with the Taliban.

Daud has been replaced by a former governor of Paktia and Kunar provinces, Asadullah Wafa, whose first act has been to announce that he will allow no more deals like that brokered between the British and the Taliban by local elders at Musa Qala. I read the decision as the outcome of an internal Afghan debate over what to do with the Taliban; so, given President Karzai's tenuous authority outside Kabul , Wafa's announcement should probably not be taken as irrevocable.

I think we can leave the involvement of the CIA and a drugs mafia in Daud's sacking to the conspiracy theorists. Not even the Foreign Office is buying that.

British Foreign Office officials said that they did not believe that Mr Daud had been fired due to American pressure.

One official said: "I'm aware of the newspaper reports saying that [President Hamid] Karzai sacked governor Daud due to 'CIA pressure with the Musa Qala arrangement'. It seems unlikely to me. There are certainly differing opinions on the Musa Qala agreement, but I don't think that would be a make or break for a governor, especially considering the deal was done with the full consultation, and approval, of President Karzai."

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