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After bin Laden, Afghanistan looks no closer to peace

The death of Osama bin Laden has only made the situation in Afghanistan more complicated.

A suicide attacker in Takhar province killed Gen. Daud Daud, the security chief for northern Afghanistan, last week. The Taliban was quick to claim responsibility.

In the days since his death, Daud has become a symbol for those who oppose talks with the Taliban. He was closely affiliated with the Northern Alliance, the loose agglomeration of armed groups that fought the Taliban in the 1990s and assisted a U.S.-led coalition in toppling the Taliban government in 2001.

Daud’s portrait is now prominently displayed at many police checkpoints, raising him to the status of hero. While the ethnic subtext is not spelled out, few are under any illusions about the message.

“These assassinations are mobilizing certain groups against any settlement with the Taliban,” said a researcher at an Afghan think-tank, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter. “They do not say it, but they are all non-Pashtun. Anti-Pashtun, really. The country is moving towards ethnic war.”

At a recent reception at a government ministry, the mood of those assembled was similarly bleak.

“I am afraid of what is coming,” said one young man. “The future looks very dark right now.”