KABUL: Afghan Presi­dent Ashraf Ghani has appointed hardline opponents of Pakistan to two top security posts, potentially complicating US efforts to revive peace talks with the Taliban before next summer’s withdrawal of 7,000 American troops.

Ashraf Ghani announced on Sunday that Amrullah Saleh will be the new interior minister and Asadullah Khaled defence minister. Both are former intelligence chiefs who have blamed Pakistan for the Taliban’s resurgence in recent years and have even called for it to be declared a state sponsor of terror. Both men will serve as acting ministers until the parliament approves their appointments.

The reshuffle comes four months after President Ghani rejected the resignations of former interior minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and defence minister Tariq Shah Bahrami following criticism over an increasingly deadly insurgency.

The move caps a tumultuous few days for Afghanistan after an American official said late last week that President Trump had decided to pull out “roughly half” of the 14,000 US soldiers in the country.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2018