June 8, 2016
ISLAMABAD—Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday introduced his nominees for the posts of minister of defense and head of intelligence to parliament for approval.
Masoom Stanekzai and General Abdullah Khan Habibi have been nominated to head of the National Directorate of Security or NDS and Defense Ministry respectively. A vote is expected next week.
The action was taken as Afghan officials confirmed the Taliban gunned down at least 12 security personnel who had been abducted by the insurgents Tuesday evening in the eastern Ghazni province. The Taliban has also warned other Afghan forces of a similar fate if they do not desert their posts.
Stanekzai served as the caretaker defense minister for nearly a year before being assigned the new job. He could not win parliamentary approval in 2015 when Ghani nominated him to head the ministry after his earlier two choices were also rejected by lawmakers.
Habibi was chief of staff of the Afghan Defense Ministry until last month, when he was appointed as its acting head.
The parliamentary introduction of the two men came amid sustained criticism of Ghani’s national unity government for allowing caretakers to run the two key institutions despite deteriorating security.
It also came ahead of NATO’s summit scheduled for next month (July 8-9) in Warsaw, where the alliance is set to “stress” its “long-term commitment” to Afghanistan. NATO withdrew the bulk of its troops from the war-torn country in 2014.
Afghan Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish, while introducing the nominees for the two key positions, said the government hopes the lawmakers will support its decision.
He went on to say that parliamentary approval is crucial to enabling NATO partners of Afghanistan to win future military assistance for Afghan forces at the Warsaw summit.