Political rift widens in Afghanistan as head of spy service resigns

Rahmatullah NabilThe bleak landscape of Afghan national politics became even bleaker on Thursday, after the sudden resignation of the country’s spy chief, allegedly due to “disagreements” with the government in Kabul. Rahmatullah Nabil led Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) from 2010 to 2012 before returning to the post in 2013, while his predecessor, Asadullah Khalid, recovered from injuries suffered from an unsuccessful assassination attempt against him by the Taliban. But on Thursday afternoon, Nabil posted a resignation letter on Facebook, saying that “a lack of agreement on some policy matters” made it impossible for him to continue to lead the NDS.

Nabil’s resignation could not have taken place at a more symbolic moment: it was announced just as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was returning home from a trip to neighboring Pakistan. The Afghan leader had attended part of the Heart of Asia regional conference, which was held in Pakistani capital Islamabad. But it is common knowledge that President Ghani’s visit was aimed at reinforcing the rapprochement between Kabul and Islamabad, as peace talks with the Taliban are about to restart. Critics of the Pakistani government accuse it of sponsoring the Taliban insurgency and believe that Islamabad’s consent is necessary for peace to prevail in Afghanistan. The Afghan government had entered negotiations with the leadership of the Taliban, but they ended abruptly in July, after it was revealed that Mullah Omar, the longtime leader of the Afghan Taliban, had been killed. Since that time, Taliban forces have taken the northern city of Kunduz, near the Afghan-Tajik border, while at the same time launching surprise raids against other cities, including Kandahar.

However, the NDS under Nabil’s leadership has staunchly opposed attempts by President Ghani to negotiate with the Taliban through the Pakistanis. In the past, Nabil had accused Islamabad of interfering in the domestic affairs of Afghanistan, while at the same time dismissing efforts by the Afghan government to reach out to Pakistan as “ill-fated”. Last week, Nabil accused President Ghani of surrendering Afghanistan’s “5,000-year history [to] Pakistan’s 60-year history”. But the President appeared conciliatory when speaking to reporters on Thursday. He praised Nabil for having done “a lot to improve information technology within NDS” and dismissed accusations that the service had been politicized. Nabil’s resignation would inevitably change the internal structure of the NDS, but such personnel changes were “common occurrences”, said President Ghani.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 December 2015 | Permalink

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