Yup, we're beating them back:
President Hamid Karzai's half brother, the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan and a lightning rod for criticism of corruption in the government, was assassinated Tuesday by a close associate. His death leaves a dangerous power vacuum in the south just as the government has begun peace talks with insurgents ahead of a U.S. withdrawal.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar provincial council, was shot to death while receiving guests at his home in Kandahar, the capital of the province that was the birthplace of the Taliban movement and was the site of a recent U.S.-led offensive.
Wali Karzai was shot by "a good friend" while receiving guests at his home in Kandahar, NBC News reported.
Tooryalai Wesa, the provincial governor of Kandahar, identified the assassin as Sardar Mohammad and said he was a close, "trustworthy" person who had gone to Wali Karzai's house to get him to sign some papers.
As Karzai was signing the papers, the assassin "took out a pistol and shot him with two bullets — one in the forehead and one in the chest," Wesa said. "Another patriot to the Afghan nation was martyred by the enemies of Afghanistan."
"My younger brother was martyred in his house today. This is the life of all Afghan people, I hope these miseries which every Afghan family faces will one day end," President Karzai said at the start of a news conference with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in Kabul.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to NBC News' Kabul office.
Wali Karzai was the focus of corruption and drug trafficking charges which put the integrity of the entire Karzai administration in question, not to mention rumors that he was a CIA asset. It's also a disconcerting example of the Taliban's continued ability to shape the narrative in Afghanistan and follows on the heels of the breakout of Taliban prisoners from the Kandahar prison and the military offensive in Kandahar.
Of course, the apparent push to make Ahmed Wali governor could just be part of some inscrutable game between the president, his brother, and the internationals. We may have to wait until the resolution of the country’s parliamentary crisis to find out, particularly since Wesa is said to have hopes of being part of Hamid Karzai’s next cabinet. But the prospect of Ahmed Wali becoming governor and the mild reaction the notion has provoked say something about vanishing pretensions on both sides, as the United States tries to forge a stable political order that can outlast its withdrawal.