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KABUL — The cross-border rocket attacks that have plagued villagers in Afghanistan’s northeast have claimed their latest victims in the capital: the country’s two highest security officials.

On Sunday, President Hamid Karzai accepted the results of no-confidence votes by parliament and sacked Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi.

The decision comes as the international military Coalition is in the midst of the messy process of handing over security of the country to Afghan forces. Wardak oversaw the Afghan National Army and Mohammadi the Afghan National Police, which make up the bulk of the Afghan security forces.

Both had a close relationship with U.S. and coalition military leaders and Wardak, especially, was spoken of highly in military circles as a trusted Afghan partner.

Coalition officials released a statement after the decision:

“We’ve built a great relationship with the Afghan government and have confidence that transition is going to continue. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on an internal Afghan political matter. Any assumption that this will affect transition strategy is purely speculative.”

The vote was the culmination of months of outrage over rocket attacks coming from Pakistan that have killed and injured scores of villagers and displaced thousands along the rugged Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The attacks, blamed by many Afghans on the Pakistani military — Pakistani officials deny this — have been happening for years but greatly picked up in frequency over the past three months.

Haji Sakhi Mushwani, a member of parliament from Kunar province, one of the hardest-hit areas, helped lead the charge against the ministers.

“For two years there was shelling from the Pakistani military against Kunar,” he said. “The ministers were not able to secure the borders, and they didn’t come and ask what is happening to the people.”

Wardak’s spokesman, Gen. Zahir Azimi, declined to comment; Mohammadi’s spokesman did not answer his phone Sunday.

Whatever the merits of the decision, it does show parliament is willing to push back against Karzai, said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution and author of the Afghanistan Index.

“I think Minister Wardak has been pretty good and that Minister Mohammadi might have been even better,” he said. “That said, the former in particular had been in office a very long time and parliament’s willingness to demand accountability is welcome, since that body needs to gain more teeth and more decisiveness — even if I am of a mixed mind about the merits of these particular decisions.”

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

druzinh@estripes.osd.milTwitter: @Druzin_Stripes

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