KABUL: When Hanif Atmar was sacked as interior minister during former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration, friends and foes alike lauded his restraint in not criticizing the government publicly.
This time around — Atmar resigned as national security adviser to President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday — he has not gone so quietly.
In a damning letter which surfaced late Saturday, Atmar cited “serious differences over policies and principles with government leadership when it comes to national unity, national consensus, peace and security, political management, electoral affairs, good governance and regional affairs” as his reason for leaving the post he had held for four years.
Atmar’s remarks suggest the opening of further rifts in Ghani’s troubled government — which is facing serious political and tribal rifts, as well as threats from militants — and will come as a major blow to Ghani himself, coming as they do from someone long regarded as the president’s “shadow” and “backbone.” Atmar first gained influence as an intelligence officer in the Soviet-backed government of the 1980s and went on to serve in three separate ministries during Karzai’s tenure.
Atmar’s successor, 35-year-old Hamdullah Mohib, was, until Saturday, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Washington. He has a degree in computer technology, but no demonstrable history of security work and no apparent ties with tribal leaders in Afghanistan.
“Atmar’s departure will have an impact on security and defense. We are in a war situation. He had contacts with the people,” retired Gen. Atiqullah Amarkhail, a long-time friend of Atmar who serves as an analyst, told Arab News.
During Mohib’s induction ceremony, Ghani said that accepting Atmar’s resignation was “a hard decision,” but one he had made in “the best interests of the country.”
Atmar’s resignation comes following weeks of deadly attacks by the Taliban and Daesh, which led to the temporary fall of Ghazni to the Taliban, and saw a mortar strike launched at the palace where Ghani was delivering his Eid message on Tuesday.
The recent upsurge in violence has caused heavy casualties among Afghanistan’s security forces and hinted at serious problems with the government’s intelligence apparatus. Atmar was responsible for key security sectors, including the National Directorate of Security — along with the interior and defense ministries.
The heads of those three key departments tendered their resignations on Sunday, but the president refused to accept them, instead requesting that the three men stay and “work toward the betterment of the security situation.”
Hashim Wahdatyar a Washington-based Afghan analyst, claimed on social media that one of the reasons for Atmar’s departure was his insistence that the government should take part in a Moscow-led peace conference on Afghanistan due to be held in less than a fortnight.
Wahidullah Ghazikhail, a political analyst, suggested Atmar’s resignation may have been forced, claiming that Ghani had discovered that Atmar had given jobs in the security sector to family members of tribal leaders in order to establish a support base for himself in the provinces.
Ghazikhail added that the timing of his resignation means Atmar might be planning his own run for office.
“Why is he resigning now, when we are only six months away from presidential elections?” he asked.