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KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has made changes to his national security team, moving the acting defense minister to head of the national intelligence agency and replacing him with the Defense Ministry’s chief of staff.

The intelligence post has been vacant since December, when the incumbent, Rahmatullah Nabil, resigned over Ghani’s efforts to improve relations with rival Pakistan.

Ghani’s government has come under mounting criticism for its failure to contain a virulent insurgency and prevent a suicide attack in Kabul late last month that killed nearly 70 people and wounded hundreds more.

Masoom Stanikzai was appointed acting defense minister a year ago, but failed to secure parliamentary approval in July. He was Ghani’s third nominee for the post. The first was turned down by parliament, and the second resigned before his name came up for a vote.

A presidential decree issued Thursday night nominated Stanikzai to head the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency, and as ministerial adviser to Ghani.

Gen. Abdullah Kahn was nominated to replace Stanikzai as acting defense minister. He previously held the post of chief of staff at the ministry.

Both appointments will require parliamentary approval. Following the attack in Kabul, Ghani pledged to fill the two positions at the urging of Parliament. The lower house recently approved new Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahid. A former general, Jahid had been appointed acting interior minister in February.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com

Twitter: @PhillipWellman

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
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