If we are to believe American intelligence assessments leaked this week, it is only a matter of time before Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, falls to the Taliban. Judging by the worrying news from several of my Afghan friends and colleagues who are now all clamoring to get out of the country, it could even be a couple of weeks. For some, it’s shocking to think that the city of roughly 5 million at the center of the country’s heartland could soon be the next to fall, after the Taliban’s aggressively swift push to seize control of provincial capitals in the north.
But for close watchers of the political churn that has unfolded all summer inside Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s Cabinet and the Afghan security agencies, the impending collapse of the seat of the Afghan government was entirely predictable. There is no sugarcoating the facts. Ghani’s government is in free fall, and the leadership ranks of Afghanistan’s security services are in complete disarray.
On Wednesday, Ghani announced the ouster of Afghanistan’s minister of defense, Hayatullah Hayat, and the elevation of Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi as his replacement. A graduate of the Kabul Military Academy and former member of the Soviet-backed People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, Khan has been gunning for the Afghan military’s top post ever since he was appointed army chief of staff in 2002. Ghani also replaced the outgoing army chief of staff, Gen. Wali Ahmadzai, with Gen. Hibatullah Alizai, who only eight months ago became commander of the country’s elite Special Operations Corps.