Aftermath of bloody Afghan blasts stokes government tensions

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s main government partner said on Monday his national security adviser and other top security officials should be removed after four days of violence last week left around 100 people dead.

Afghan policemen arrive at the site of blasts in Kabul, Afghanistan June 3, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

A massive truck bomb attack on Wednesday killed more than 80 people and wounded hundreds more, leading to violent protests over the lack of security. At least four people were killed during the protests in clashes with police.

The bloodshed continued on Saturday when suicide bombers struck a funeral for one of the victims of the protests, killing at least six people and prompting calls for National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar and other security chiefs to step down.

“There is a big problem with the heads of the security institutions,” said Salahuddin Rabbani, foreign minister and head of Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan, the party behind Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. “They should be removed.”

Ghani has appealed for unity and promised an investigation into the actions of police who fired on protesters.

But the violence of the past days and the outburst of public anger over security failures has ratcheted up tensions in the government, which has been under increasing strain over the past few months as security has deteriorated.

The tensions, which have worsened in the absence of a clear direction from Washington, have complicated the situation facing U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration as it works out its policy approach to Afghanistan.

Built on a U.S.-brokered agreement between the former rivals Ghani and Abdullah after the disputed election of 2014, the partners in Afghanistan’s National Unity Government have been at odds since the start.

Abdullah’s mainly Tajik Jamiat party has felt betrayed by the way what they understood as a power sharing accord has produced a government dominated by Ghani and other powerful Pashtuns such as National Security Adviser Atmar.

Those resentments turned to fury among many when three suicide bombers struck at the funeral for the son of deputy Senate speaker Alam Ezedyar, a senior Jamiat politician. The son was killed during last week’s protests.

The funeral, in a district in the north of Kabul, was attended by several senior Jamiat politicians, including Abdullah, who was in the crowd of mourners when the bombs were detonated but who escaped unharmed.

Referring to the long list of Jamiat politicians assassinated over the years - including his own father, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011 - Rabbani said the attacks now appeared aimed at the whole party.

“The program has expanded from individual attacks to group ones,” he said.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Tom Heneghan