Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, resigned on Saturday, sparking other resignations in the cabinet, in what observers believe could be the first move in a plan to run for the presidency in next year’s elections.
He was one of the most influential advisers to President Ashraf Ghani and widely considered to be the second-most powerful official in .
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He became national security adviser after Ghani was sworn in as president in late 2014. Ghani’s office said the resignation had been accepted and announced his successor immediately, naming the Afghan ambassador to the United States, Hamdullah Mohib, as the replacement.
Atmar, 49, said that he was stepping down due to the differences he had with the government on a political level, as well as their approach to maintaining peace and stability in the country. His resignation letter has not been released but it is said to have cited “serious differences over policies and principles with government leadership”.
A senior official close to Atmar said the former security adviser was considering running against Ghani in the 2019 vote. “He has resigned because he is preparing to run for presidential election next year,” they said.
The exact details of the rift with Ghani were not immediately clear but in the past week the Afghan government declined to attend peace talks hosted by Russia that representatives of the Taliban .
Atmar, who began his security career with the Soviet Union-backed government in the late 1980s, is still seen as close to Russia.
Sources close to the president were reported by two Afghan television stations to have said that Ghani asked all his security cabinet to step down before Atmar resigned. Late last night it was confirmed that the minister of defence, Tariq Shah Bahrami, the minister of the interior, Wais Barmak, and the National Directorate of Security chief, Masoom Stanekzai, had all done so.
The reasons given by Ghani for the call for resignations was said to be the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, amid deadly attacks carried out by suspected Islamic State militants, including last week’s and the , and the increasing defence and security forces casualties.
Afghan government officials were not immediately available to confirm the reported presidential directive.
Atmar previously served as the minister of interior under former president Hamid Karzai.
He was sacked in 2010 after Taliban insurgents attacked a “peace jirga” that was an early attempt at ending the 17-year-old war with the Taliban.