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Afghan President Names Acting Heads Of Key Security Ministries

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made surprise appointments atop two key power ministries on March 19 in an apparent bid to shore up security with international pressure mounting on Kabul and Taliban militants to hammer out a peace deal for the war-torn state.

Ghani appointed a former governor of the southern Helmand Province, Hayatullah Hayat, as acting defense minister and placed the chief of General Staff, General Yasin Zia, in charge of the Defense Ministry, according to the Afghan National Security Council.

A deadline for the United States to pull troops out of Afghanistan according to a year-old deal with the Taliban is set to expire in six weeks, although President Joe Biden has said his administration is reviewing that plan by the previous U.S. administration.

Earlier this week, Biden said during a televised interview that it would be "tough" to meet the deadline.

The Afghan government and the Taliban reportedly agreed at a meeting in Moscow on March 19 to try to accelerate stalled peace talks.

The new impetus followed an international conference in the Russian capital on breathing life into the process.

Ghani's government accuses the Taliban of doing too little to halt violence since the peace talks got going in September 2020.

A former Kandahar and Nangarhar governor, Hayat takes over the interior minister's post from Masud Andarabi to improve "the security situation" in the country, Ghani's office said.

General Zia will keep his military post and is filling in until Defense Minister Assadullah Khalid can return following treatment for an illness, a statement suggested.

Based on reporting by TOLO News and AFP