Afghan parliament approves defense and intelligence chiefs
By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 20, 2016
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s parliament approved on Monday President Ashraf Ghani’s nominees to lead the Defense Ministry and national intelligence agency, following months of criticism that the government was not doing enough to curtail insurgent attacks and protect citizens.
Gen. Abdullah Khan Habibi will step into the role of defense minister, a position that has been officially vacant since the current government was formed in September 2014.
Masoom Stanekzai had been acting defense minister. He was confirmed as head of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. That post has been vacant since Rahmatullah Nabil resigned in December over Ghani’s efforts to improve relations with rival Pakistan.
The parliamentary approvals came amid mounting insurgent attacks across the country. Taliban guerrillas are said to control more territory now than at any time since 2001, when U.S.-led forces ousted them from power. Critics have said poor government leadership is partly to blame.
The confirmation of Ghani’s key security nominees also comes just weeks before next month’s NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, where continued assistance to the Afghan security forces and the future role of international coalition forces will be high on the agenda.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.