Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s decision to dismiss his special envoy on Reforms and Good Governance, Zia Massoud, could further destabilise the country, at a time when the National Unity Government (NUG) has already been weakened by divisions among top leaders. Analysts have warned that this move to remove the President’s special envoy could push the country into another civil war while some observers link the political disarray in Kabul to the uncertainty over US policy.
Describing his dismissal as ‘unfair’ Massoud, on Tuesday, told reports in Kabul, that the president had no right to dismiss him under the agreement on the formation of the national unity government (NUG).
“You [the president] do not have the power and the right to do this,” said Massoud. “Taking me out of the government structure means moving the country to more instability,”
He further warned that if the president wanted to push him out, the country would end up in another civil war.
Massoud was sacked on Monday (17 April) by the President of Afghanistan with little explanation. Ghani’s office said that Massoud had failed to do his job.
Massoud has a history of often publicly criticizing various decisions of the president.
The power-sharing agreement brokered by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry had looked unwieldy from its inception in 2014, and since then has been buffeted by internal rivalries.
According to a Reuters report, Timor Sharan, a Kabul-based analyst for the International Crisis Group had stated that the move would reinforce the impression among Ghani’s rivals that he was excluding them from power.
“This sends a clear signal to others that they could be easily removed within this strategy of monopolizing power around the palace, and this creates the chance of political instability,”Sharan said.
Massoud, from Afghanistan’s Tajik community, framed his firing as a move by Ghani, a Pashtun from the country’s largest ethnic group, to push others away.
Ghani shares power with Tajik politician Abdullah Abdullahand Massoud. Massoud had reportedly suffered some unpopularity within his constituency after he backed Ghani over Abdullah when the government formed in 2014.
Massoud was the Vice President in the first elected administration of President Hamid Karzai from December 2004 to November 2009.He is a younger brother the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legendary resistance leader against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Karzai, although a Pashtun, is also angered by the recent activities of the Ghani administration. He has upped pressure on his successor by vowing to oppose the unity government for its role in allowing the US military to drop a massive bomb on a suspected IS stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, brought into the administration to gather support from his ethnic Uzbek bloc, has been marginalized amid accusations that he ordered his men to abduct and assault a political rival last year. Earlier this year, Afghanistan’s Attorney General had ordered the arrest of nine of his bodyguards in this connection.
Politicians and analysts say the divisions have hampered the government’s ability to lead the country beset by a worsening insurgency, in which thousands of people are killed in fighting between the government and insurgent groups like the Taliban.
The new US administration is yet to set out a clear policy for Afghanistan, raising questions about how far it will go to support Ghani and his government in the coming years.
One of the senior Afghan politicians Abdul HadiArghandiwal told the Reuters news agency, that he thinks what Afghanistan needs now is the political backing of Trump’s administration.
“During the Dostum crisis, countries like Iran and Turkey were the go-between between Ghani and Dostum trying to bring the two together,” he said. “If this was under Kerry, it would have been already sorted out.”
The Trump administration is yet to appoint an ambassador and no new decisions were announced on Afghanistan while US national security adviser HR McMaster visited Kabul on 16 April. McMaster has merely announced that the United States planned to continue to cooperate with Afghanistan in the fight against various insurgent groups.