KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani replaced his ministers of interior and defense on Saturday after several territorial gains by the Taliban and the surrender of hundreds of government troops to the insurgent group in recent weeks.
The Taliban have captured dozens of small bases and districts across Afghanistan since May 1, when US-led foreign troops began withdrawing from the war-torn country as part of the last phase of their combat mission, amid stalled aerial support for Afghan forces.
In a statement on Saturday, the presidential palace said that under Ghani’s latest order, Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi would succeed Assaduallah Khalid as defense minister while Kunduz’s governor, Abdul Sattar Mirzakawal, will replace Hayatullah Hayat as the interior minister.
Mohammadi, a senior member of a faction involved in Afghanistan’s politics, war and economy, has served in the past as both interior and defense minister.
He is accused of squandering tens of millions of dollars of US aid in his previous role as defense minister and is an ally of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, head of the national reconciliation council, who has shared power with Ghani since 2014.
Officials in Ghani’s office refused to comment on the move when contacted by Arab News on Saturday.
However, the development comes amid rising complaints by lawmakers and civilians over Ghani’s poor performance as commander-in-chief, and the interior and defense ministers’ failure to curb the Taliban’s gains.
“At least 10 districts in various regions across the country have been taken over by the Taliban since Friday,” two security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the media, told Arab News.
Before that, the Taliban seized more than 25 districts in recent weeks. Afghanistan comprises 34 provinces and at least 420 districts.
Hundreds of security forces have also surrendered to the insurgent group since May 1, when foreign troops began their exit from Afghanistan, which is expected to be completed by Sept. 11.
The loss of territory to the Taliban comes amid divisions among government leaders, particularly between Ghani and Abdullah, over the distribution of power and government resources.
Experts say that the issue of war management cannot be resolved by replacing officials.
“... because apart from division among leaders over which ministry should go to who, Ghani’s inner circle is a group of young people who have no experience in war, and they are dealing with war management,” Taj Mohammad, a Kabul-based analyst, told Arab News.
“The new appointments will have some symbolic and psychological short-term importance, but I doubt they will change much in favor of the government.”