Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accepted on Monday the resignation of the defence minister and army chief of staff after more than 140 government soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack on an army base last week, the president’s office said.
“Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim stepped down with immediate effect,” the presidential palace announced in a post on its Twitter account.
Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi & Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim stepped down with immediate effect.— ارگ (@ARG_AFG) April 24, 2017
Shah Hussain Murtazawi, acting spokesman for Ghani, told Reuters the resignations were because of Friday’s attack in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
It was not immediately clear who would replace Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim.
The attack — the biggest ever by the Taliban on a military base in Afghanistan — involved multiple gunmen and suicide bombers in army uniforms who penetrated the compound of the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army in northern Balkh province on Friday, killing and wounding scores.
Ten gunmen dressed in soldiers’ uniforms and armed with suicide vests entered the base in army trucks and opened fire at unarmed troops at close range in the mosque and dining hall.
At least 140 soldiers were killed and many wounded, an official in the city said on Saturday. Other officials said the toll was likely to be even higher.
Many Afghans slammed the government for its inability to counter the attack, the latest in a series of brazen Taliban assaults, including one on the country’s largest military hospital in Kabul in March that left dozens dead.
Twelve army officers, including two generals, were sacked for negligence over that attack.
Afghan security forces, beset by killings and desertions, have been struggling to beat back insurgents since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.
According to US watchdog SIGAR, casualties among Afghan security forces soared by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed.
Nearly 9,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, in addition to thousands of international coalition forces.
The administration of new U.S. President Donald Trump is considering whether to make changes to the U.S. mission training and advising Afghan forces, and conducting raids against militant groups such as Islamic State.
The German military, which has led much of the advising effort in northern Afghanistan, said in the wake of the attack it would continue to work with the Afghans.