Candace Rondeaux writes for Foreign Policy:
The last time I met with Burhanuddin Rabbani, he had just taken up his post as head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council. He was looking unusually fit and energized and was in a jocular mood, his dark eyes laughing as he regaled his visitors with witty appraisals of Afghanistan's nascent peace process. President Hamid Karzai had taken his time in announcing the names of the High Peace Council members, officially announcing them in October 2010, and less than a month later Rabbani was already complaining that the Karzai administration had been dragging its feet on establishing an office for the council.
Holding court in the garishly ornate salon of his mansion in downtown Kabul, Rabbani bitterly joked about the then-recent revelations that the Afghan government and its Western backers had been duped into talking to a Taliban impostor. As details emerged of the Afghan government's efforts to begin brokering a deal with a man they believed to be Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a close adviser of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, it became clear that the Afghan peace process had a long way to go, and that the Taliban and its allies in the Pakistani military were prepared to go to great lengths to derail the peace process.
Mansour -- it turned out -- was not Mansour at all, but variously was believed to be a shopkeeper from Quetta, a Taliban spy, an agent of Pakistan's intelligence services, or all of the above. The unseemly tale of subterfuge and betrayal was, Rabbani said at the time, a sign of the disarray in the Afghan government and the desperation in Washington to cut a deal that would quickly end America's longest war. The ruse, the former Afghan president declared, was a stain on the peace process.
Rabbani was in rare form then, back in the limelight, relishing being at the center of Afghan politics again -- the place where he always felt the most comfortable. Confident of his position and ever critical of those he called his allies, there was a sense of hope in Rabbani's tone that somehow the four years he spent as president, presiding over the destruction of the Afghan capital in the 1990's, would be erased as he spent his twilight years recasting himself as peacemaker. In many ways, Rabbani's quest to burnish his troubled legacy was emblematic of the entire peace process itself, which has emerged as little more than a theatrical exercise in appeasing the vanities of powerful men.
One of a series this year of assassinations of high-powered Afghan politicians, Rabbani's death at the hands of a suicide bomber in the heart of Kabul should send a strong signal to the Afghan government and its backers in Washington and London that cutting deals with the Taliban is not and never will be the solution for Afghanistan.