Afghan defense minister, army chief of staff resign after Taliban raid
Afghanistan’s defense minister and the country’s army chief of staff have resigned following a recent attack by the Taliban militants that took the lives of scores of Afghan army soldiers.
The Afghan presidential palace announced in a post on its Twitter account that President Ashraf Ghani had on Monday accepted the resignations of the defense minister and the army chief of staff.
“Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim stepped down with immediate effect,” the presidential palace tweeted.
Shah Hussain Murtazawi, an acting spokesman for Ghani, separately told Reuters that the resignations were because of the Taliban attack on a military base in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which killed some 140 army soldiers.
The base attacked was the headquarters of the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps, which is responsible for security in much of northern Afghanistan.
The scale of the loss of life and the apparent ease with which the Taliban militants managed to stage the attack have raised serious questions as to the state of security in Afghanistan, likely providing impetus for the Monday resignations.
During the attack, some 10 Taliban militants, disguised as Afghan soldiers and driving military vehicles, entered the base and engaged in the carnage. They continued the attack for several hours and were not stopped until special forces arrived.
In March, another brazen Taliban attack killed dozens at the country’s largest military hospital in the capital, Kabul.
Some Afghan officials have reportedly said that a final death toll from the attack in Mazar-i-Sharif is likely to be higher.
President Ghani traveled to the city on Saturday to visit the base. He also ordered a day of national mourning to be observed on Sunday.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit.
It was not immediately clear who he would meet with as his peer following the resignation of the Afghan defense minister, which came just on the day of Mattis’ unannounced arrival.
The US has thousands of military forces in Afghanistan. It led an invasion of the country that toppled a Taliban regime in 2001.