KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — As mourners carried a slain anti-Taliban police chief through the streets of this Afghan city gripped with grief and fear on Friday, the immediate consequences of the attack that killed him were becoming clearer.
The Afghan government announced that the nationwide parliamentary elections scheduled for Saturday would be delayed by a week in the key southern province of Kandahar, where Gen. Abdul Raziq, the police chief, had been a towering figure.
Besides the general, officials said, the province’s entire senior leadership was either killed or wounded on Thursday when a gunman — believed to be a member of the security forces who had joined the insurgents — opened fire as they were leaving a meeting at the governor’s office with the top American commander in the country.
The American general, Austin S. Miller, was unhurt and returned to his command in Kabul. Three other Americans, including a brigadier general, were wounded, according to officials, who said their injuries were not life-threatening.
The attack was the latest major setback for the parliamentary elections, which have already been delayed by three years. Kandahar is the second of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, along with Ghazni Province, where voting will not take place on Saturday, and one-third of the polling stations in the rest of the country will not open because they are in areas either controlled or influenced by the Taliban.
The insurgents have issued repeated threats about the elections, saying they will do everything they can to stop them. In one statement, they “ordered” educators to not allow their schools to be used as polling centers, or teachers to work as election staff on voting day. In another statement on Friday, they said they would block “all small and large roads” across the country on Election Day.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan expressed concerns about the Taliban statements “that indicate their intention to carry out attacks against schools that will be used as polling centers,” and urged the insurgents to respect and protect civilians. In a statement, the mission said the schools and election workers cannot be regarded as military targets.
“The U.N. Mission deplores the level of violence that has taken many lives in the run-up to the elections,” the statement said. “Attacks directed against polling centers and civilians participating in the electoral process are clear violations of international law, and perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable.”
General Miller appeared on the streets of Kabul, where he was filmed chatting with Afghan security forces. The gesture was seen as an attempt to strengthen morale after the loss of General Raziq, who loomed large in the national psyche and was revered by the security forces, despite accusations of human rights abuses. General Miller’s appearance was also seen as a move to quash rumors that he had been a casualty in the attack.
“Yeah, I am fine, I am fine,” the general says in one video, as Kabul’s police chief, Gen. Sayed Mohammad Roshandi, shakes his hand and asks about Kandahar.
“What happened down there was an attack on the security forces. But I tell you we will still remain with the security forces,” General Miller told the Afghan channel Tolonews. “It was a closed, confined space, but I don’t assess that I was the target.”
Although there were still no detailed official accounts of what happened at the Kandahar governor’s compound, eyewitnesses provided further information on Friday. They said the afternoon meeting at the governor’s office had ended and that General Raziq, General Miller and the rest of the leaders had exited through a back door after briefly addressing reporters.
They were waiting to leave in the yard of the governor’s guesthouse, after one of their helicopters had landed and a second was landing, witnesses said. The officials were talking in small groups, with some taking photographs, when the shooter opened fire.
Witnesses’ accounts varied — some said the gunman had fired indiscriminately, while others said he had aimed at General Raziq first before emptying his magazine toward the others.
A messy shootout followed, and the attacker was shot in the head by one of General Miller’s guards, one senior official said. At least one eyewitness said General Miller had been “just meters” away from General Raziq.
“We all took cover. It was over in seconds,” Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the American military in Afghanistan who was in Kandahar with General Miller, said without providing further detail. He added that General Miller had made sure the wounded were treated before he left the scene.
Reports about the fate of the governor of Kandahar, Zalmai Wesa, were contradictory on Thursday. But on Friday, Afghan officials released a video of him recovering in a hospital bed.
The American military mission in Afghanistan has reduced to about 15,000 men, mostly in advisory roles to Afghan forces, but they include some soldiers fighting the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
The Taliban’s infiltratration of Afghan forces make even the reduced American presence fraught with danger. An increase in attacks by infiltrators, which became known as Green on Blue, around 2012 threatened to derail the mission, sowing fear and mistrust.
Countermeasures have included what are known as Guardian Angels — service members accompanying American military advisers as watchful guards during their visits with Afghan counterparts.