The Afghan government on Saturday announced the appointment of Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi as new acting minister of defense and Gen. Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal as acting minister of interior, a major shake-up in the country’s security sector in the middle of surging violence that has been gripping Afghanistan on various fronts.
President Ghani also appointed Gen. Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai as the new army chief, replacing Gen. Yasin Zia who was serving in the post since last July.
Hayatullah Hayat who served as acting minister of interior has been appointed as acting minister of rural rehabilitation and urban development, according to a statement by the Presidential Palace.
Bismillah Mohammad has previously served as minister of defense, minister of interior, and chief of army staff under former president Hamid Karzai's administration.
Assadullah Khalid was serving in the post since December 2018. He resigned from his post as defense minister last week.
The High Council for National Reconciliation has said that Bismillah Mohammadi was appointed to the post in an agreement between President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the reconciliation council.
This new development takes place at a time that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces continue to fight the Taliban in various regions and amidst the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the country.
In the latest incidents of violence, there are reports that the Taliban have captured the center of Baharak and Bangi districts in Takhar province, Khawja Sabzposh district in Faryab, Mardian district in Jawzjan, Dara-e-Soof district in Samangan, Qala Kah district in Farah and Mirzaka district in Paktia.
Sources have confirmed that at least 30 districts have either fallen to the Taliban or have been evacuated by security forces over the last two months.
Some lawmakers said the Taliban will launch attacks on major cities if the government does not take immediate action to retake the areas that have fallen to the group.
“Last night, the police chief of Khawja Sabzposh district (in Takhar) phoned (me) for air support and refused to retreat and vowed to fight. They waited until midnight. When pressure mounted, they surrendered to the Taliban,” said Fawzia Raufi, an MP from Faryab.
“If weapons and other military equipment aren’t supplied to Omarkhel, Lajmangal, and Aryoub districts (in Paktia in eastern Afghanistan), they will face the same fate as the Mirzaka district (in Paktia),” said Taj Mohammad Mangal, member of the provincial council Paktia
“Other neighboring districts like Baharak and Bangi and even the city of Taluqan will fall if the clashes continue at the same pace and if the central government does not pay attention to Takhar,” said Nazifa Yousuf Bek, an MP from Takhar.
“Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse every day. The Taliban’s activities have increased. Mardian district (in Jawzjan) fell to the Taliban last night,” said Babur Aidin, a civil society activist in Jawzjan.
The Ministry of Defense on Friday confirmed clashes in at least 13 districts.
The Defense Ministry said the ANDSF will soon retake all those areas that have fallen to the Taliban.
“This situation will not prevail," a Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman assured.
Although there reports that at least 50 security force members have been killed during the battles with the Taliban in the past 24 hours, the Defense Ministry has said that over 250 Taliban were killed and 161 more were wounded in clashes in the same period. Taliban has rejected the figures.