My apology to readers for not making the correction earlier; I forgot all about this post until now. From an interview Saleh gave a few days after his resignation, which I think I linked to in later post, Saleh was not fired or even forced to resign. Karzai was probably under pressure from the Obama administration to force him out in order to placate Pakistan's military, and he had become unhappy with Saleh's continued accusations that Pakistan's military was complicit in the Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. But Karzai knew what would happen as soon as he fired Saleh: scores of irreplacable Afghan intelligence officers would resign in protest. Given the very thin bench in the NDS, Karzai's government couldn't afford to lose that number of veteran officers. For that reason Saleh had stayed on, against his better judgment.
It was only when Karzai's fear of being assassinated by the CIA escalated to the point where he was no longer open to reason that Saleh finally threw in the towel and turned in his resignation. Predictably, he was followed out the door by at least 40 of the NDS's finest, who also resigned -- although that news did not surface in the press until just a few weeks ago.
Saleh said recently that he had 'tens of reasons' for resigning so he might not have hung on much longer in any event, but Karzai's anger about the attack on the jirga (see below) was the perfect time for Saleh to tender his resignation.
As to why several press outlets such as the Washington Post continue to mention in their reports, every time the subject comes up, that Saleh was sacked -- maybe the U.S. Department of State knows the answer.
"The passing of Saleh, who has publicly accused the Pakistani intelligence service of being responsible for numerous Taliban attacks inside the country, is likely to delight Pakistan, which had promised better relations if he was removed."
I am shocked by Amrullah Saleh's ouster from Karzai's government, although I should have seen it coming. Karzai has completely capitulated to Pakistan's military regime.
Afghan interior minister and spy chief resign over jirga security breaches
Double resignation seen as 'disaster' for international efforts to improve country's security and reform police force
Jon Boone in Kabul
Sunday 6 June 2010 22.44 BST
Two of the most internationally respected members of Hamid Karzai's government resigned today over security breaches at last week's "peace jirga" that allowed the gathering of 1,600 national leaders to come under Taliban rocket attack.
The resignation of Hanif Atmar, the British university educated interior minister, and spy chief Amrullah Saleh will be regarded as a huge setback for foreign-backed efforts to improve security and to reform the corrupt, barely literate and largely untrained police force.
A western security expert who has worked closely with both men said the double resignation was a "disaster" and ensured that the international mission in Afghanistan "was now doomed further".
He said: "These are two of the most important people in the security sector who were finally getting a better reputation for their organs and clearing up corruption within them. If they are replaced by corrupt cronies then we might as well all pack up and go home now."
The resignations also prompted speculation in Kabul that Karzai had seized the opportunity to get rid of two men he had lost trust in, despite the strong support they had from foreign embassies. Saleh was especially valued as a seasoned intelligence officer who, even before being appointed to head the National Directorate of Security (NDS), had forged close links with the CIA and MI6 when he was a key aide to Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary anti-Taliban resistance leader.
"The significance of their removal is very profound and speaks volumes about the growing paranoia in the palace about the loyalties of those who have been central to the Karzai administration for the last several years," said Candace Rondeaux, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group.
Foreign diplomats and palace insiders all say the relationship between Karzai and the two men has been stormy for some time, with the Afghan president subjecting them to ferocious tongue lashings, prompting Atmar to offer his resignation earlier this year.
Saleh told friends that he had been considering resignation after feeling he had lost Karzai's support.
"This was the final slap in the face for the international community," said one former senior Afghan diplomat. "It was their way of telling the Americans they can no longer protect Amrullah and it was their way of telling the British that they could longer protect Atmar."
The passing of Saleh, who has publicly accused the Pakistani intelligence service of being responsible for numerous Taliban attacks inside the country, is likely to delight Pakistan, which had promised better relations if he was removed.
But a palace official insisted that the resignations simply reflected a "major security breach and lack of preparation" at an event called to discuss plans for a peace process with the Taliban. "If the rockets had landed a few metres in a different direction then we would have had 1,600 people dead in the tent," the official said.
The Karzai aide also said that Atmar and Saleh explained themselves to a cabinet security committee today but their account was found to be "divergent from reality".
Today the interior ministry gave more details of how the attackers managed to penetrate a security perimeter manned by 12,000 security guards. A spokesman said two of the attackers disguised themselves as a couple, with one wearing a burqa.
A grenade launcher and an AK-47 rifle were wrapped in cloth and made to look like a swaddled child, the ministry said.