President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to call for the resignation of his security cabinet on Saturday evening came as a huge surprise to most Afghans although some politicians said it had been expected.
Ghani called for the minister of defense Tariq Shah Bahrami, minister of interior Wais Barmak, National Directorate of Security chief Massoom Stanikzai and National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar to all step down.
Some Afghan politicians said Ghani and Atmar had been close but this changed as relations with influential figures in the country, outside of government, broke down.
Atmar enjoyed strong relations with Ghani in the past and was even honored with a medal in 2016.
But one political affairs analyst hinted at the upcoming presidential elections as being the reason for his resignation.
“Mr Atmar and Mr President partially agreed on issues. As I said in the past, when elections get closer, every politician considers their own interests and creates coalitions,” said Mohammadagul Mujahid, a political affairs analyst.
“Mr Atmar has declared the realities. He could not work with the system which has a new strategy and plan every other minute,” said Freshta Amini, an MP.
“Unfortunately, three or four teams have been formed at the ARG (Presidential Palace). ARG should have one team and all should have worked jointly with the president,” said Zazai Watandost, an MP.
Atmar, who comes from Laghman province, completed his studies in London and held a number of senior positions over the years. He served as minister of rural rehabilitation, minister of interior and minister of education under former president Hamid Karzai.
However, he has been Ghani’s national security advisor since the establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG) in 2014 and even signed the signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the US the same year.
But Atmar has come under fire in the past – despite having been such a close aide to Ghani.
After protests turned violent following a deadly bombing in Zanbaq Circle in downtown Kabul last year, Salahuddin Rabbani, acting foreign minister and head of Jamiat-e-Islami party, accused Atmar of being inefficient and called for his resignation.
Some Kabul residents said however they hope that with a new security leadership in place, the situation would improve.
“The situation is getting worse every day,” said Abdullah, a Kabul resident.
“Government should appoint officials based on their merit,” said Elyas Ahmadi, a Kabul resident.
“Government should replace officials with those who have the expertise and experience,” said Rahiluddin, a student in Kabul.
Unconfirmed reports say that Atmar resigned in order to run in next year’s presidential elections.