Blow for Karzai as top cabinet ministers quit

Two of the most powerful members of President Hamid Karzai's beleaguered government resigned yesterday plunging Afghanistan into fresh political crisis.

The Interior Minister, Hanif Atmar, and the Security Minister, Amrullah Saleh, both quit unexpectedly, apparently after Mr Karzai blamed them for failing to stop the Taliban's embarrassing attack during his presidential speech at a conference, or jirga, in Kabul last week to discuss plans for peace and reconciliation in the country. Taliban militants fired rockets and battled with security forces close to the venue but no delegates were injured.

Both Mr Saleh and Mr Atmar held key jobs in the government's battle against the Taliban, with the spy chief responsible for gathering intelligence about the militants, used not just by the Afghan security forces but also by Nato troops. Mr Atmar oversaw the expansion of the police force, which the West sees as perhaps the most important preparation for the gradual hand over of security operations to the Afghan government.

Despite receiving glowing praise as a technocrat, Mr Atmar, whose CV includes stints with humanitarian organisations and a posting as a senior spy under Afghanistan's communist regime, has also come in for criticism for his managerial style.

One Western diplomat speculated that in Kabul, where politics is rarely as it seems, it was Mr Atmar's failures building up the fledgling Afghan police force that actually led to his dismissal.

"He's more of a politician, not a manager," one said. "He tends to involve himself in tactical decisions. He doesn't delegate well. He's a politician with ambitions so he needed to be removed from the decision-making inside the ministry." More damningly, Mr Atmar was also said to have dispatched just 12 out of 568 graduates from a three-year training course at the Kabul police academy to southern Afghanistan where they are needed most. "The only reason those 12 were sent to the south was because they couldn't afford to pay their way to a safer posting," the diplomat claimed.

Meanwhile, friends of Mr Saleh say his resignation was the culmination of months of budding resentment towards Mr Karzai. "Amrullah Saleh had differences when it came to security issues with Karzai and also he had differences when it came to, for example, the latest jirga, when Karzai signed a decree that Taliban prisoners should be released," one confidant said. "The intelligence network made a lot of sacrifices to get some of these terrorists in prison. Instead of condemning the Taliban, Karzai praised them."

There was also the question of the spy network's politically awkward revelation that not only did many Taliban cells operate in and receive backing from Pakistan, but that Pakistan's intelligence agency had helped with Taliban suicide bombings on targets in Kabul, such as the Indian Embassy in 2008 and 2009, and a guesthouse used by Indian clientele earlier this year. "Pakistan has put several conditions" on collaborating with the Afghan government's plans for peace with the Taliban "and one of those was the removal of Amrullah Saleh as intelligence chief," Mr Saleh's friend said. "These different factors played in Karzai's decision to distance himself from the spy chief."

Mr Saleh himself told a news conference that the president had "lost confidence in our capability to provide security for the jirga and my explanation to the president was not convincing enough".

He added that he had resigned for "moral" reasons after Mr Karzai rejected his explanations. He said there were "dozens of other internal and external reasons" for his departure. Mr Saleh is understood to have tried to quit several times in the past, but until yesterday Mr Karzai had refused to let him go.

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Advisor - East Anglia - Field-based

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: To be considered for this position you will n...

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home