KABUL – Afghanistan’s top security officials have tendered their resignation, but President Ashraf Ghani asked them to remain at their posts.
The presidential palace said Sunday that Ghani declined the offers to resign submitted by Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami, Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and Masoum Stanekzai, Afghanistan’s top intelligence official.
On Saturday, Ghani accepted the resignation of Mohammed Haneef Atmar, his national security adviser, and replaced him with Hamdullah Mohib, who previously served as the ambassador to the United States.
The security shake-up comes after weeks of unrelenting attacks by the Taliban, who have seized several districts across the country in recent years. The insurgent group has also boosted its diplomatic profile, sending official delegations to Indonesia and Uzbekistan, and accepting an invitation for talks in Moscow.
A statement from the presidential palace said Atmar’s resignation has been accepted and that Mohib has been appointed as the new national security adviser.
Haroon Chakhansuri, Ghani’s spokesman, also confirmed Mohib’s new appointment. Mohib also currently serves as the nonresident ambassador to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Columbia.
Atmar had previously served as the interior minister under the former president, Hamid Karzai, after previous posts as minister of rural development and education.
On Saturday, at least two people were killed and four others wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest near the office of the Election Commission in eastern Nangarhar province, officials said.
Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the wounded were brought to the regional hospital in the capital city Jalalabad with one in critical condition. He said the casualty count would likely rise.
Doctors are working to save the wounded, said Inamullah Miakhail, spokesman for the public health director in Nangarhar.
The attack took place when supporters of a candidate for parliament who was rejected by the Election Commission gathered to protest near the commission’s office, said Khogyani. Several vehicles were damaged in the attack, he added.
It came as several tents belonging to protesters near the main Election Commission office in the capital Kabul were removed earlier Saturday by police after following threats of attacks, according to security officials.
The SITE Intelligence Group that monitors extremist groups reported that an affiliate of the Islamic State group issued a communique claiming responsibility for the attack.