President Hamid Karzai forced two of his top three security officials to resign Sunday over their failure to prevent attacks on last week’s peace council in the capital, Afghan and American officials said, creating shock and concern among Western
officials about such serious changes in crucial ministries even as the American war effort here reaches a critical phase.
As a consequence of the attack last week on the "peace jirga" here in Kabul, both the Minister of Interior Hanif Atmar and the chief of the National Directorate of Security Amrullah Saleh have been forced from their posts. Official reports say that after several hours of discussion with President Karzai, during which they were unable to offer "satisfactory" explanations about the failure to stop the attack, both men submitted their resignations which were immediately accepted.*
*That's the official line, but it's more likely that the resignations were a result of both men's refusal to accept Karzai's proposal to release several thousand Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill. MoI troops and the NDS spent the last couple of years rounding these guys up (and suffered a lot of casualties in the process), and now Karzai wants to let them go because he feels like he needs more friends. No wonder they up and quit.
The official line probably understates the acrimony of the "discussions." First, I doubt that there was a lot of actual back-and-forth discussion. Tensions have been running high in the upper ranks of the Karzai administration for some time, and I suspect that Karzai did a lot of shouting while Atmar and Saleh sat there stone-faced. Second, if either of them did get an opportunity to actually present their case, it's likely that questions were raised about the comprimising of the Afghan security apparatus by Karzai's friends and relatives.
Too early to estimate the full fallout from the resignations, but it's safe to say that it won't be good. At precisely the moment when ISAF needs a set credible partners in the ANSF to properly launch the summer offensive, two key ministries have lost their experienced chiefs. Despite some serious flaws with the ANP, Atmar was well respected by both the British and Americans and had a reasonably effective working relationship with his ISAF and U.S. Army counterparts.
By most accounts (including my own estimation), Saleh was one of few truly excellent leaders in the Karzai government. Due to the nature of his job (NDS is basically the secret police, essentially a combination of the CIA and FBI), Saleh kept a lower profile than most in the government, but his organization had become quite effective at rooting out cells of bad guys around the country. It's said that even if they couldn't do anything about it, NDS knew the details on the nefarious dealings of everyone, including those within the government itself.*
*Such knowledge was probably a contributing factor to Saleh's ouster. Even the much-feared NDS was prevented from operating effectively down in Kandahar by the interference of Ahmed Wali Karzai and other scumbags close to the President. Nevertheless, Saleh almost certainly knows where the bodies are buried (literally). If Karzai was smart, he would have kept Saleh in the government just to keep him quiet.
Saleh is an ethnic Tajik, and perhaps more importantly a Panjshiri Tajik and old comrade of Ahmed Shah, the most famous and most effective mujiheddin of the Soviet days. That made him unpopular in a government dominated by Pashtuns, but he was well liked by the various Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies. His relationship with the CIA goes back to the days of the Soviet occupation and it's said that he still maintains close ties with Langley.
Both men have been replaced by their deputies, people closer to the Karzai clan and presumably loyal to Karzai personally. General Munir Mangal, the former Deputy Interior Minister, has been promoted, and Ibrahim Spinzada is the new head of NDS. Both of these appointments are desribed as "temporary" but the Karzai administration is probably not going to expend a lot of effort looking for permanent solutions.
Spinzada is Karzai's brother-in-law and the Mangal clan has been loyal to Karzai for a long time. Looks like the President is using the attack on the jirga to consolidate his control over the security apparatus and remove a couple of more independently-minded rivals.
Not exactly what this country needs heading into the fighting season, and with the Taliban becoming more active every day.