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Iran Press TV

Afghan intelligence director quits amid rising civilian deaths

Iran Press TV

Thu Sep 5, 2019 05:56PM

The head of Afghanistan's intelligence service has stepped down following a deadly operation by government forces that left four brothers dead in eastern Afghanistan.

Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, who had served as head of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency since June 2016, tendered his resignation on Thursday.

The incident that prompted Stanekzai's resignation occurred late Wednesday in Jalalabad city in eastern Nangarhar province.

According to Nangarhar governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani, four brothers were killed in the raid.

The NDS had initially claimed four members of the Daesh terrorist group were killed in the incident, but authorities later backtracked.

Reacting to the incident, dozens of demonstrators took to the streets in Jalalabad on Thursday to protest the killings.

Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani said that he had "regretfully" accepted the security chief's resignation.

"As a responsible state we have zero tolerance for civilian casualties," Ghani said on Twitter. "I have regretfully accepted the resignation of NDS chief, Mr. Stanikzai who had had success in other areas of his work."

Ghani went on to say that he had ordered the attorney general to investigate the raid "and to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The president also stated that he had an emergency meeting with security chiefs as well as the chief justice and the attorney general.

"The tragic incident in Jalalabad occurred despite previous assurances and changes in guidelines vis-a-vis security and search operations," he said.

The president had faced growing criticism and scrutiny in recent weeks for retaining Stanekzai even as bombings and deadly attacks increased in Kabul and across Afghanistan.

Afghan security forces have faced frequent criticism for their tactic of conducting night time raids targeting houses where suspects are supposedly hiding out. But time and again, civilian residents have been killed for no reason in the operations.

Nearly 4,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan in the first half of this year with a 27 percent increase in war-related civilian deaths in the second quarter.

Also on Thursday, at least 10 people were killed, including a US and a Romanian soldier, and dozens more injured when a car bomb struck a checkpoint in Kabul in an area that houses embassies, government buildings, and local NATO headquarters.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing -- the second major Taliban attack in the city this week.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a large tractor-bomb attack on a heavily protected compound used by foreign organizations in Kabul on Monday night.

There has been no let-up in violence in the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan, even though the US and the Taliban are said to be in an intense final phase of efforts toward a peace deal to end the conflict.

A consistent pattern of increased attacks by the Taliban has emerged in recent weeks. The so-called "peace" talks have apparently fueled more violence as the Taliban use military force to maintain their negotiating position.

In recent days, large groups of militants have attacked the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri.

President Ghani's main spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Wednesday that Kabul had serious doubts about a draft peace agreement recently reached between US and Taliban negotiators and wants further clarification.

Ghani, whose administration has been left out of the talks, recently said only Afghans had to decide their fate, not outside powers even if they were allies. The president said peace was only possible with an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The US invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the ruling Taliban regime. US troops were first sent to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

American forces have since remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now, Donald Trump.

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