Casualties continue to pile up in the wake of the Taliban’s spectacular suicide attack on an Afghan Army corps headquarters in Balkh province on April 21 that killed more than 140 Afghan security personnel. Afghanistan’s defense minister and the Army chief of staff have resigned, and President Ashraf Ghani has fired four Army corps commanders.
“Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim stepped down with immediate effect,” the office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced in a post on its Twitter account.
Shah Hussain Murtazawi, acting spokesman for Ghani, told Reuters the resignations were because of Friday’s attack on a major army base in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Ghani’s office also announced that he had replaced the commanders of four army corps in response to the attack, and defence officials said as many as eight army personnel had been arrested – heightening suspicions the attackers had inside help.
As Reuters notes, the resignations took place as US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is visiting the country.
FDD’s Long War Journal has warned for years of the gathering Taliban threat, and how the group has taken advantage of the US drawdown coupled with a weak Afghan military and continued safe haven and support from Pakistan to take over territory. For years, both NATO and the US military have attempted to reassure us that all is well in Afghanistan (see the aftermath of the defeat in Sangin for the latest example) and that the Afghan military is more than capable of stepping in and securing the country.
One hopes that the Taliban assault on the Afghan Army’s 209th Shaheen Corps headquarters and the staggering casualties caused by only 10 fighters will give US Secretary of Defense Mattis pause and allow him to soberly reevaluate the situation in the country.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.