Afghan leader rejects resignation of spy chief, top ministers

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has turned down the resignations of three senior security officials and ordered them to find ways to halt militant attacks. The trio had offered to quit over rising violence in the country.

President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday urged Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak, Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami, and intelligence chief Masoum Stanekzai to stay in their posts, the Afghan government said.

The three officials submitted resignation letters on Saturday, citing policy differences and a spate of deadly attacks.

"President Ghani did not approve their resignations... and gave them the necessary instructions to improve the security situation," a statement from the presidential palace said.

The offers to step down followed the resignation of Ghani's national security adviser and close ally, Hanif Atmar, on Friday. Atmar, one of the country's most powerful politicians, has been replaced by former ambassador to the US Hamdullah Mohib.

Read more: Kabul bombing: Afghanistan and the West 'share a common threat'

Atmar previously served as Afghanistan's interior minister

Atmar has been a mainstay in Afghan politics since the late 1980s, when he began his security career under the Soviet Union-backed government. He served as interior minister under former President Hamid Karzai and had been the country's top security official under Ghani since 2014.

Afghan local TV station Tolo News reported Saturday that his resignation was a result of his disagreements with the government on issues such as national unity, peace and security, as well as regional and international relations.

Read more: Why are Kabul and Washington not participating in Moscow-led Taliban talks?

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Fragile security

Repeated attacks in Afghanistan over the past several months have killed and wounded hundreds of innocent Afghans, and shown the world the fragile and worsening state of security in the conflict-stricken country. The incidents have plunged war-weary Afghan citizens into a state of despair and highlighted the limitations faced by the government in Kabul in ensuring public security.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

A long series of attacks

The violent incidents have made Afghanistan once again a staple of international headlines. Outfits like the Taliban and the "Islamic State" (IS) have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Afghan government is under heavy pressure to restore security and take back territory controlled by a number of insurgent groups, including the Taliban and IS.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Spring offensive

Last week, the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive, dismissing an offer of peace talks by President Ashraf Ghani. The militants, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law to Afghanistan, said their campaign was a response to a more aggressive US military strategy adopted last year, which aims to force the militants into peace talks.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Trump's Afghanistan policy

US President Donald Trump unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan last year, vowing to deploy more troops, on top of the 11,000 already in the country, to train and advise Afghan security forces. Trump also pledged to support Afghan troops in their war against the Taliban and maintain American presence in the country for as long as there was a need for it.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Afghan peace process

Despite President Ghani's offer in February for peace talks "without preconditions," the Taliban have shown no interest, dismissing the peace overtures as a "conspiracy." Observers say it is unlikely that the militant group will engage in any negotiations, as they currently have the upper hand on the battleground. The Taliban now control more Afghan districts than at any other time since 2001.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Pakistani support

Pakistan has been under pressure from Kabul and Washington to stop offering safe havens to militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies and insists that its influence over the insurgents has been exaggerated. Kabul and Islamabad regularly trade accusations of harboring the other country's militants and the harsh language has underscored the strains between them.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

Role of the warlords

Apart from the Taliban, Afghan warlords exercise massive influence in the country. Last year, Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul after a 20-year exile to play an active role in Afghan politics. In September 2016, the Afghan government signed a deal with Hekmatyar in the hope that other warlords and militant groups would seek better ties with Kabul.

The endless battle for power in Afghanistan

An inefficient government

In the midst of an endless battle for power, President Ghani's approval ratings continue to plummet. Rampant corruption in the Afghan government and a long tug-of-war within the US-brokered national unity government has had a negative impact on the government's efforts to eradicate terrorism.

Slew of resignations

The security situation in Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated over the past few months. A number of recent deadly attacks by the Taliban and suspected "Islamic State" militants, including a rocket attack on the presidential palace in Kabul, have shaken the nation.

On Saturday, at least two people were killed and four others wounded when a suicide bomber attacked the office of the Election Commission in eastern Nangarhar province. Afghanistan is set to hold parliamentary elections on October 20, which has elevated the risk of attacks throughout the country.

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nm, jcg/aw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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