ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan’s national security adviser abruptly resigned Saturday amid rising violence across the country and high numbers of battlefield casualties the Taliban insurgency is inflicting on government forces.
Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar, 49, 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 Ashraf Ghani’s office swiftly announced he has accepted the resignation and replaced Atmar with Hamadullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the U.S.
The presidential statement cited no reasons for Atmar’s unexpected departure.
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.
Afghan government officials were not immediately available to confirm the reported presidential directive.
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.
The abrupt departure of one of the most powerful government figures also came 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.
Separately on Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body near an office of the Afghan Election Commission in the restive eastern city of Jalalabad and killed three people. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the violence, though the Islamic State terrorist group has taken credit for almost all recent bomb attacks in the provincial capital.