Taliban militants assassinated the governor of a crucial district bordering Kandahar, in a setback for American plans to stabilize the city. Arghandab Gov. Hajji Abdul Jabbar died along with his driver and one of his sons when a remote-controlled car bomb exploded next to his vehicle in the center of Kandahar city Tuesday night, Afghan officials said. A key priority for the coalition was to build Mr. Jabbar, a former anti-Soviet guerrilla, into a figure of real authorityin part by channeling through his office the farming aid projects financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.S. military and USAid over the past several months have poured millions of dollars into Arghandab, a lush farming area famous for its pomegranates that straddles a river valley northeast of Kandahar city. American officials had held up Mr. Jabbar's rising clout and his ability to rally many village leaders against the Taliban as a rare success story in southern Afghanistan. "He's an irreplaceable figure," said Zalmai Ayoubi, the Kandahar provincial government spokesman. The coalition's strategy for Kandahar focuses on building credible local governance that could provide an alternative to the Taliban in the key districts surrounding city, especially Arghandab, Zhari and Panjway. Teams of coalition officials, known as the district support teams, have been seconded to these district administrations. A large-scale U.S. military offensive is expected to start in these areas in coming months. On Sunday, President Hamid Karzai and the coalition commander, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, traveled to Kandahar city for a gathering with tribal elders that endorsed this military push. Initially planned for this month, the offensive has been delayed by Mr. Karzai's ambivalence about the plan and by the slow deployment of additional U.S. Army troops. The Taliban are countering the coalition's strategy by assassinating those Afghans who dare to work for the government, with dozens of bombings and shootings in Kandahar city this year so far. The recent casualties included Kandahar's deputy mayor, senior police and military officers, and tribal leaders seen as supportive of Mr. Karzai. Last week, a Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 40 people in Arghandab, targeting a wedding celebration attended by dozens of policemen and members of an anti-Taliban militia sponsored by U.S. Special Forces. While Mr. Jabbar's office in Arghandab was protected by a U.S. military facility, he was vulnerable during his daily commute to the valley from his home in Kandahar city.(wsj)