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Afghan President Rejects Resignations of Top Security Officials


Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani speaks during a press conference at Presidential Palace in Kabul on June 30, 2018.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has rejected the resignations of three top security officials.

A government spokesman said Sunday Ghani has asked the three to remain in office and "work towards the betterment of the security situation."

Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami, Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and Afghanistan's top intelligence official, Masoum Stanekzai, submitted their resignations Saturday.

Their resignations were tendered just hours after Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, abruptly resigned Saturday amid rising violence across the country and high numbers of battlefield casualties the Taliban insurgency is inflicting on government forces.

FILE - Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Kabul, Afghanistan.
FILE - Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Atmar said in his resignation letter, shared with VOA, he was quitting the office because of developing “serious differences” with the top leadership of the government “over policies and principles.”

President Ghani’s office swiftly announced he had accepted the resignation and replaced Atmar with Hamadullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the United States.

Sunday morning Ghani officially introduced 35-year-old Mohib as the new national security advisor at a special ceremony where the defense and the interior ministers were also in attendance.

The Afghan president also thanked Atmar for his service.

“Accepting the resignation of a long-term friend and colleague was a difficult decision for me, but the decision has been taken in the national interest," Ghani said.

Atmar said in the letter he was unable to resolve the differences with top government leaders when it came to “strengthening national unity, restoring peace and security, elections, good governance and strengthening regional and international relations.”

Two mainstream Afghan television stations reported — quoting government sources — that Ghani had directed Atmar, interior and defense ministers, as well as the country’s spy chief, to step down.

The local media went on to claim that this week’s rocket attack on Kabul’s presidential palace while Ghani was delivering a nationally televised speech, a short-lived insurgent takeover of the strategically important Ghazni city, and the increasing battlefield losses being inflicted on Afghan security forces are what prompted Ghani to seek resignations from his top cabinet members.

Atmar was one of the powerful figures in Ghani’s beleaguered unity government, and he previously had served as the interior minister under the former president, Hamid Karzai, before being fired in 2010 over a Taliban attack in Kabul.

The Afghan national security adviser’s resignation comes amid renewed U.S.-led efforts to promote peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban to end the stalemated 17 years of war. His departure also comes just days after the Ghani government refused to attend a multi-national conference that Russia plans to host on September 4 to discuss ways to end the war in Afghanistan.

It was not clear, though, whether Kabul’s decision to decline the Russian invitation had anything to do with Atmar’s resignation.

Washington also has turned down Moscow’s invitation to attend the event.

The Taliban already has confirmed receiving an invitation by the host nation, saying Qatar-based insurgent political envoys will attend the day-long event in the Russian capital.

The insurgent group’s planned participation in the conference would underscore Moscow’s growing influence and contacts with the Taliban in recent years.