Afghan defense minister, Army chief of staff resign after deadly suicide assault

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.

From Reuters:

“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.

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  • John Goodeliunas says:

    This sounds like the reality that was Vietnam until the Tet offensive. Our government is not to be trusted for its incompetent portrayals. Nothing changes, nothing is learned from history. But why? To admit otherwise and strategize wisely would inconvenience the corporate military complex? They feed off of war from the Trillion dollar treasury.
    Eventually, like all Afghan wars, the foreigner will have to depart. Again, like Vietnam, the western supported government will collapse. What will we have to show for our dead and wounded? What justifications will be offered for the trillions of dollars soaking, rusting and rotting in the sands of Afghanistan? We join Alexander the great, the Mongols, the British, the Russians, the Indians and the Persians in all their attempts of controlling this unconquerable and ungovernable country.

  • truth says:

    the taliban claim on their website to have killed and wounded over 500 ANDSF personnel in this attack.

  • truth says:

    america is in a catch-22. if america sends more troops to afghanistan, then that will make the taliban’s cause look more legitimate and it would make the afghan government and the ANDSF look like puppets and the enemies of afghanistan. that would bolster the taliban and the taliban would start having more successes.

  • Frank Dunn says:

    Bill: What will a “soberly reevaluation” achieve? A decision to return 30,000 a 50,000 US combat troops to retake districts/provinces which were lost by previous US president? Would Americans have an appetite for this option? Or, a total withdrawal of US forces, a withdrawal that will surely result in a collapse of the Afghan army and a Taliban takeover.

    A 3rd option would be airpower, with perhaps 50-75 A-10s, 75-100 Apache helicopters, 100 to 150 Blackhawks, 25-35 C-130s and much more for air support. But these combat aircraft, assuming we have that many available, would require massive US security, maintainence, ground spotters and logistical support. There do not appear to be many options for the Trump administration. Perhaps you could offer possible options.

  • James says:

    Like I’ve said many times before, if it takes US a thousand years to succeed in Afghanistan, well then so be it.

    Bill, I would love to know still whether anyone (or agency) has looked at the feasibility of “legitimizing” Afghanistan’s opium production. There are numerous legal pharmaceuticals that are in fact opium-based.

    As far as the Taliban is concerned, I say use ISIS against them. What a catch-22. If we attack ISIS, we’re unwittingly helping the Taliban. If we attack the Taliban, we’re unwittingly helping ISIS. What a mess the previous administration has left US in.

    I say, use ISIS against them. Just “look the other way” while we tolerate at least a minimal ISIS presence. Then we can all watch and enjoy while they’re busy sawing each other’s heads off.

    The graveyard of AQ is what I call it. Let’s keep it that way.

  • John Goodeliunas says:

    There we go again, every piece of hardware, battle kit, munition, fuel, salaries, etc., feed the military industrial complex. Send in the power quadrant instead of figuring out a better way out of the catch-22 dilemma. You mock Obama’s strategy, which was the fulfillment of a promise to extract us from another quagmire. Just like Nixon promised to extract us from Nam in 1968. We never voluntarily extracted ourselves. We were chased up ladders off the roof of the embassy in 1974. Six years and 10’s of thousands of American dead after he promised. The Inconvenient truth. We will be chased out of Afghanistan like we were chased out of Iraq. Don’t you all get this yet?

  • jack says:

    boots on the ground did this! MOAB IS A VERY BAD RETURN FOR THE MONEY SPENT!

  • Michael Ellison says:

    We must persevere until victory. That is what we did in Iraq. We should do it in Afghanistan, after all that was supposed to be the “good war”.


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