KABUL (Reuters) - A prominent Afghan politician said on Tuesday his dismissal by President Ashraf Ghani was unfair and could further destabilise the country, at a time when the coalition government has already been weakened by divisions and uncertainty over U.S. policy.
Ahmad Zia Massoud, a former vice president, had been serving as Ghani’s representative on good governance and reform before he was sacked with little explanation on Monday.
“If the president wants to push me out, the country will end up in another civil war,” Massoud told reporters on Tuesday.
“You do not have the power and the right to do this,” Massoud said. “Taking me out of the government structure means moving the country to more instability.”
The power-sharing agreement brokered by then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looked unwieldy from its inception in 2014, and since then has been buffeted by internal rivalries.
Politicians and analysts say the divisions have hampered the government’s ability to lead a country beset by a worsening insurgency, in which thousands of people are killed in fighting between the government and Islamist militant groups like the Taliban.
The new U.S. administration has 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.
Ghani’s office said Massoud, who had often publicly criticized the president, had failed to do his job.
But Timor Sharan, a Kabul-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said 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 Abdullah, although Massoud, brother of a slain anti-Soviet resistance hero, lost some support among his own constituency when he backed Ghani over Abdullah at the time the government formed in 2014.
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, a prominent figure in Kabul, has upped pressure on his successor by vowing to oppose the unity government for its role in allowing the U.S. military to drop a huge bomb on a suspected Islamic State stronghold in eastern Afghanistan last week.
In addition, First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, brought into the administration to gather support from his ethnic Uzbek bloc, has been marginalized amid accusations he ordered his men to abduct and assault a political rival last year.
Dostum denies the allegations and no official charges have been filed.
Some Afghan officials link the political tensions to the relative lack of policy direction from and interaction with President Donald Trump’s new administration in Washington.
“During the Dostum crisis, countries like Iran and Turkey were the go-between between Ghani and Dostum trying to bring the two together,” said one senior Afghan political official. “If this was under Kerry, it would have been already sorted out.”
Trump has yet to appoint an ambassador to Afghanistan, and while U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster visited Kabul over the weekend, no new decisions were announced.
McMaster said more broadly that the United States planned to continue to cooperate with Afghanistan in the fight against insurgent groups like Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.
“I think what Afghanistan needs at the moment is the political backing of Trump’s administration,” said Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, an Afghan politician.
Additional reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Mike Collett-White