Afghanistan’s defense minister and the chief of army staff resigned on Monday, three days after more than 140 soldiers were killed in the Taliban’s deadliest assault in 16 years.
As the government and the U.S. struggled to manage the deteriorating security situation, Abdullah Habibi and Qadam Shah Shahim stepped down with “immediate effect” following the attack at an army base in the northern province of Balkh, according to a statement from the Presidential Palace in Kabul.
Habibi told reporters in the capital they resigned in the “national interest” and Shahim said they weren’t pressured by top officials. “Afghanistan is facing a complicated war and no one has succeeded to defeat terrorism yet,” Habibi said.
More than 150 Afghan soldiers were also wounded in the assault after 10 Taliban fighters, including suicide bombers, dressed up in military uniforms and stormed the base in Dehdaadi district. They began shooting as soldiers were praying and dining in a battle that lasted six hours.
The massacre and resignations will add to the “the turmoil for its army at a very challenging and difficult moment,” said Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based political analyst.