President Ashraf Ghani announced new Defense and Interior Ministers as violence escalates and the Taliban claim more territory.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has replaced two top ministers in charge of managing the country’s faltering security, as the Taliban continue their campaign to capture new territory in fierce battles with government forces.
The shaking of the Ministry of Defense and Interior’s portfolios occurs as violence escalates and peace talks continue to be blocked, and the Taliban claim to have seized more than 40 districts in recent weeks through the rugged camp.
The presidency announced on Saturday in a statement that General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who fought under anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud during the 1990s civil war, has been appointed new defense minister.
He has replaced Asadullah Khalid, who has been in the job since 2018 and has been to the country on several occasions to treat his injuries after a suicide bomber attacked him in 2012.
Mohammadi had previously held the portfolios of the Ministry of Defense and Interior and also served as chief of staff of the army after the fall of the Taliban regime following a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
Ghani also appointed General Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal as interior minister, the presidency said. Mirzakwal has previously held various regional positions.
“Robust and effective plan”
The latest cabinet changes, which must be approved by parliament, come as violence has escalated since early May after the U.S. military began. formal withdrawal of his last remaining troops.
U.S. President Joe Biden has set September 11 as the 20th anniversary of the U.S. attacks that led to the invasion of Afghanistan, as the deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Since the Pentagon began its final withdrawal on May 1, the Taliban have unleashed a wave of attacks on government forces.
The armed group claims to have seized more than 40 districts since early May, forcing military leaders to strategically withdraw from several rural districts.
On Saturday, local officials said the Taliban had captured at least six more districts in the country since Friday, forcing pro-government forces to surrender or evacuate the districts and flee.
The newly fallen districts are in Takhar, Faryab, Jawzjan, Samangan, Farah and Paktia provinces, according to officials.
In an attack, the Taliban shot dead at least 20 members of an elite command unit in an ambush in northern Faryab province on Wednesday, several officials told AFP news agency.
Afghanistan has 34 provinces and about 400 districts. Districts serve as secondary-level administrative units, one level below the provinces.
The Taliban are now present in almost every province and surround several major cities, a strategy the armed group employed in the mid-1990s when they dominated most of Afghanistan until they were ousted by invading forces. led by the United States.
On Saturday, the defense ministry confirmed that government troops had withdrawn from several districts, but said they intended to recover them.
“There is a new, robust and effective plan to reclaim areas from which we have withdrawn our forces,” said ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai, who dismissed claims that hundreds of soldiers had surrendered to the Taliban.