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Afghan President Announces Government Shakeup

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced that Assadullah Khalid, the former head of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), as the country's defense minister and Amrullah Saleh, also a former intelligence chief, as interior minister.

Ghani made the announcement in a December 23 decree in which he asked the parliamentary affairs minister to send the nominations for approval to Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, known as the Wolesi Jirga.

Both men will serve as acting ministers until the parliament approves their appointments.

No official reason was given for the shakeup.

The move comes several months after Ghani rejected the resignations of former Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami over political differences.

Khalid and Saleh both served as heads of NDS under former President Hamid Karzai.

Both men have blamed Pakistan for the Taliban's resurgence in recent years and have called for it to be declared a state sponsor of terror.

Khalid was badly injured in an assassination attempt in Kabul in 2012.

Ghani’s announcement comes ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential election scheduled for April 2019.

It also comes amid reports that the United States is planning to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan.

U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has been meeting with Taliban leaders in hopes of bringing the Afghan war to an end.

The Taliban has so far refused to engage with Afghan government representatives.

With reporting by the BBC, and Tolo News
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